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Meat Matters

Side Dishes: Governor plans to cut inspection program

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Everyone knows the state needs to save money, but one of Governor Douglas’ measures for trimming the fat has farmers and agriculture advocates frothing at the mouth.

Douglas has proposed eliminating the agriculture department’s meat-inspection program as part of a package of state job cuts. If his plan moves forward, any slaughterhouse that relies on local meat inspectors will need to become USDA certified — a process that can take as long as 60 days — or shut down.

Farmer and House Agriculture Committee Chair Carolyn Partridge is one of many who believe the governor’s proposal will harm hundreds of small area farms.

“Words fail me,” she says. “You wanna talk about localvore, carbon footprint, food safety: All of that is reliant on a state meat-inspection program … [This move is] not only a step backward, it’s like shooting yourself in both feet.”

Partridge explains that slaughterhouse owners find working with state inspectors both easier and friendlier. “When you deal with our state meat-inspection division, they’ll come out to your facility ... and talk to you. With the USDA, they send you a packet.” At least one slaughterhouse owner, who services 115 local farmers, has told Partridge he would rather close his operation than go back to working with the USDA.

The committee chair — who knows “a minimum of seven people who are interested in going into business and opening a state-inspected facility” — notes that both Democrats and Republicans are up in arms about the proposal. “This issue transcends politics. [Continuing the inspection program is] just good common sense,” Partridge says.

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