Columbus Junction Braces For Possible Sequestration Cuts - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Columbus Junction Braces For Possible Sequestration Cuts

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Automatic federal budget cuts that go into effect at midnight could affect 6,300 meat and poultry plants across the country. It is because the U.S. Department of Agriculture might furlough food inspectors for 15-days and that would force plants to temporarily suspend product.

In Columbus Junction the Tyson Foods plant is a huge employer and brings a lot of money into the local economy. If there are temporary shut downs at the plant many business owners are worried about how it will affect their bottom line.

"I'd say 75% of my income comes from people who work at Tyson," says Jose Estrada, Owner of Take 2 Scene 2 Video.

Jose Estrada owns a video store and burger restaurant in downtown Columbus Junction. His business is dependent on people who work at Tyson.

"It will be empty, because we aren't going to have any business," adds Estrada, "We're going to suffer or we have to find some other way to compensate that income."

Tyson Foods employs 1200 workers at its pork processing plant in Columbus Junction. With so many workers employed at the plant, business owners also worry about the trickle down effect. Columbus Junction schools are facing a budget deficit due to losing 200 students over the past 10-years.

"A large population of our community does work at the Tyson Plant," says Melanie DeVore, Owner of Main Street Gifts and Antiques, "So, it would affect many different areas of the community."

Businesses say without workers getting their full income the entire community could suffer.

"If they don't have income they won't be able to live in this community," adds DeVore.

If the Tyson Plant has to temporarily suspend operations, it won't happen anytime soon. If food inspectors are furloughed they have to receive at least 30-days notice and they have not been notified.

We reached out to Tyson Foods and they emailed us this statement: "It's disappointing that the Administration and Congress haven't been able to agree on needed cuts in government spending. However, because meat inspection has historically been considered "essential" by the federal government, we're optimistic there will be no interruption in this public health and safety function. We do not expect any immediate impact on our business.

Disrupting food inspection is a disservice to all consumers, including those who work in our plants, raise our cattle, chickens and hogs and invest in our company. We're working with industry, labor and consumer groups to help USDA meet its sequestration requirements while continuing to provide necessary public health and industry certification services.

We have also been considering measures we might take if inspector furloughs become a reality. Once we receive more details from the USDA, we will begin to develop contingency plans."

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