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Sequester's Iowa impacts unclear

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With the March 1 sequester imminent, producers and agribusinesses are left wondering what possible effects federal budget cuts might have on the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says the answer is unclear; what little information exists is contradictory.

Northey adds that roughly $10 million of IDALS’ budget are federal dollars, allocated to programs like in-state meat inspection at small lockers, half of which is also funded by in-state dollars. Because of this, Northey is not expecting disruption of meat inspection that IDALS oversees. Furloughing meat inspectors has the potential to seriously disrupt the pork and beef industry; meatpackers will be unable to process animals, and suppliers will be left with animals that can’t be sent to slaughter.

Federal money has made other programs possible, and if they are affected, Northey says IDALS’ response would be scaled appropriately.

Sequestration would reduce all USDA programs by the same percentage indiscriminately. Some programs may have enough of a budget to absorb the cuts without dramatic changes, while others such as FSIS would not. While Northey finds those kinds of reductions troubling, he also thinks fiscal complacency in Washington is something to be avoided.