Wednesday, April 8, 2009

YAK TRACKS: WCAX Covers Unfolding Meat Inspection Story

Thanks to WCAX and journalist Keagan Harsha for doing a story on Vermont governor Jim Douglas' plan to cut $$ for Vermont's meat inspection program.

With our national food system in crisis, oil prices trending inexorably upward, and more and more Vermonters looking to relocalize food production, one would think the Governor would see the value in expanding this program.

Doesn't sound like it.

Call the Governor' Office at this number: 802.828.3333 - and urge him NOT to cut our meat inspection program.

- snip - here's the story -

Braintree, Vermont - April 7, 2009

Meat isn't the only thing on the chopping block at Vermont's slaughterhouses.

So are jobs.

The governor plans to cut seven of the state's nine meat inspectors-- a measure that would save the state about $400,000 a year.

"You'd have to rely more on the federal inspectors to take over that function. Like I said, it's not something we're excited about happening," Vt. Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee said.

Inspectors monitor the slaughter process. They also make sure the plant is up to health and safety standards.

Most plants are federally licensed so that their meat can be sold out of state, but there's already a shortage of federal inspectors here. Slaughterhouses fear a trickledown effect if state inspectors are cut.

"They won't be able to keep up with it. You can't travel 30 places in one day," said Mike Loomis, a butcher.

"It's going to be a problem because no one's going to do the job. The little things are going to be overlooked," butcher Royal Larocque said.

Larocque says food safety will be compromised-- and not just at slaughterhouses-- but also at the couple dozen custom meat shops that are currently inspected by the state.

"You're not going to see them follow the rule the way it should be done," Larocque said.

Others say the cuts could also lead to the closure of slaughterhouses, pointing to New Hampshire as an example.

The Granite State scrapped its state inspection program in 1977.

At the time there were 11 slaughterhouses, now there's just one.

"We're going to be much more limited in the number of slaughterhouse facilities going forward. Getting federally inspected is a much more difficult job than getting state inspected," Allbee said.

Allbee is hopeful the Douglas Administration and lawmakers can come up with enough money to keep the inspection program intact.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News
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