Some Question Food Safety Over Potential Ag Program Cuts

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By Kim Genardo, NBC17, 18 hours, 31 minutes ago
Updated: Mar. 12 7:19 pm


State agencies are being forced to do more with less, and it could be just the beginning.

The cuts are expected to get even deeper in the 2009-11 fiscal year.

But some are worried those cuts might affect public safety.

The Agriculture Department recently learned the state meat and poultry inspection program could be on the state's chopping block.

The Office of State Budget and Management listed the program as one place the state could save $3.8 million dollars.

The federal government offers a similar service.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said he was as surprised to learn the food safety inspection program could be handed over to the feds to save the state money.

North Carolina's meat and poultry inspection program regulates 185 plants and six warehouses across the state.

With more budget cuts coming, Troxler is defending his program to lawmakers.

"When we start talking about cutting, cutting, cutting into these programs that keep our food supply safe, we're playing Russian roulette, that's what's going to happen," said Troxler.

Beyond safety, documents suggest the USDA has fewer compliance officers, they would focus on larger operations, hanging out to dry nearly

Five hundred local meat handlers now registered with the state.

"We've seen figures that show when you go to nothing but a federal inspection program you lose a lot of small- and medium-sized operators in the state," said Troxler.

Senator David Weinstein, (D) Robeson County, chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic resources.

He backs the state program and said, "The federal handling of the peanut situation in Georgia -- they've not done a good job at all. My understanding is that North Carolina meat and poultry inspectors have not had an infraction in five years. They're doing a good job."

Division Director Don Delozier informed senators in 2008 his inspectors conducted more than 500 compliance investigations, issued 47 warnings, six civil penalties and 35 product detentions.

According to Delozier, there have been no recalls of products produced by plants the state inspects in the past three years. Plants inspected by USDA, FSIS had 48 recalls in 2008, he said.

The governor will unveil her spending priorities Tuesday, then it's up to lawmakers as to what government programs and services survive.



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