USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack came under pressure from the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on March 1 to be more specific about the impact that proposed Republican budget cuts and a possible government shutdown would have on USDA’s food safety inspections and what the loss of earmarks will mean for agricultural research.

Under direction from the White House, Vilsack has been upbeat about Congress reaching agreement on the budget to avoid a shutdown, and he took that position at a recent House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

“We start with the proposition that you are going to get this worked out,” Vilsack told the committee.

But House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-WA) told Vilsack he fears the proposed cuts would require furloughs of federal meat inspectors employed by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the closure of slaughter plants that cannot send food into the marketplace if it does not have the USDA seal of approval.

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