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How will the impending sequester affect meat prices?

Posted at: 02/21/2013 10:28 PM
Updated at: 02/21/2013 11:15 PM
By: Lynette Adams

The next time you order steak at a restaurant or buy ground beef at the store, you could pay extra. It's all because of the impending "federal budget sequester". Unless lawmakers do something, there will be billions of dollars in cuts to dozens of federal programs and some those programs directly affect us.
    
What is the sequester? The Washington Post laid it all out. It's a series of budget cuts set to take effect March 1 unless Congress acts. It was an incentive for the debt ceiling committee to cut $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years but it didn't happen. The cuts would be evenly split between defense and domestic programs. The estimated amount of cuts for this year: just over $85 billion. But if this goes into effect over the next 8 years, there could be between $87 and $92 billion in cuts.

How will it affect meat prices?  Published reports quote the White House saying the sequester could put USDA inspectors out of work for up to 2 weeks. That could force plants to shut down and limit the supply of meat.
    
These cuts could mean the layoffs of tens of thousands of federal workers. People like the corrections officers at the Federal Detention Center in Batavia. It's predicted these cuts could reach further than that, even as far as your pocketbook and the money used to buy beef in a restaurant or at the store.

Cindy DeCarlo, co-owner of Skip's Meat Market, said, “Not only would it hurt us. This would be far reaching and I don't believe this administration would ever let this happen.”

Cindy DeCarlo has been in the meat business for most of her life. She and a partner own this Skip's Meat Market in West Ridge Plaza. If the forced budget cuts take effect, it would put her business in jeopardy.

DeCarlo said, “If the product wasn't available, we wouldn't have anything to sell.”

The cuts would affect just about every American. It's estimated tens of thousands of teachers would be laid off, as well as security workers like those here at the Rochester international airport. 600,000 pregnant woman and mothers of small children would be cut from the WIC Nutrition Program, which provides milk and other healthy foods.

It's estimated federal law enforcement and corrections officers would be furloughed for weeks at a time along with border patrol agents and meat inspectors, closing meat plants across the nation.

And that's only the beginning. Some blame partisan politics. This is what Buffalo Congressman Chris Collins had to say earlier.

Congressman Chris Collins said, “The president has not been willing to negotiate in good faith to make some of these cuts more surgical so we could limit the impact in some areas, certainly defense is one of them. He has insisted he needs more taxes to offset these.”

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was in Rochester Wednesday.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter said, “I think that we have to remember that there has been cuts already. $1.2 billion dollars that we've cut already. The deficit is coming down. Employment is going up. I don’t want to endanger this recovering economy.”

Whatever the differences are in Washington, Cornelia Bullock, who's been shopping here at Skip's for 20 years, wants to see it resolved before March 1.

Cornelia Bullock, Rochester resident, said, “I've been shopping here for a couple of generations actually, about 40 years, including my mom. I wouldn't know where to get my meat from. They better get it together.”

Slaughter says the impact of these forced budget cuts could be as significant as the depression of 1929. Slaughter said the sequester date could be changed from March 1 to later in the month. She says the government is working under a continuum budget until March 27. She says the sequester date could be changed to the 27 to give the two sides time to resolve this.