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USDA lists programs disrupted by possible government shutdown

by Joan Murphy | April 08, 2011

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Department of Agriculture staff who work on programs such as specialty crop block grants, country-of-origin labeling and marketing agreements would be furloughed if Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement on a government spending plan by tonight.

Congress has until midnight Friday, April 8, to pass a budget, or the federal government will shut down, except for essential employees.

So who would be open for business on Monday?

The looming shutdown prompted the USDA to release a contingency plan that lists the programs in each agency that would continue and those likely disrupted by the budget impasse. Only a fraction of the nearly 3,000 staff at the Agricultural Marketing Service would be at their desks.

Fresh and processed fruit and vegetable inspections and the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Program, which is supported by a special fee account, would continue during a possible shutdown, according to the document.

But the following programs paid by staff with annual appropriations would not continue: marketing agreements and orders; the Microbiological Data Program; the National Organic Standards Program; country-of-origin labelin;g and the Pesticide Data Program.

Inspections of fruits, vegetables and nursery products before they are shipped to the United States would not be disrupted, according to the plan for the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Neither would agricultural inspections and quarantines that can be potentially damaging to U.S. crops.

A federal response to food recalls and outbreaks are likely to be delayed because of staff furloughs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, government sources said.

FDA plans to maintain a skeletal staff, half of which would be conducting inspections prioritized by risk, an FDA spokesperson said. The agency also would continue to review imports during the government shutdown.