MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has acknowledged that it will be "several months" before meat inspectors are furloughed as part of across-the-board spending cuts that took effect March 1.
Vilsack detailed how the Agriculture Department will move forward on the furloughs at a House Agriculture Committee hearing Tuesday. He said each meat inspector will likely be furloughed 11 or 12 days, instead of 15 days as the Obama administration earlier claimed.
The White House has used the meat inspector furloughs as one example of how the cuts will affect the economy. Meatpacking plants cannot operate without inspectors, so the furloughs will cause plants across the country to shut down intermittently.
Vilsack said the process will be complicated because of negotiations with labor unions that represent the meat inspectors.
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