Sequestration would have ripple effect in Iowa, Vilsack warns

Ag secretary, former Iowa governor says state needs a contingency plan

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USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was back at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday to warn lawmakers about the impact the pending sequestration of federal funds could have on the state budget and Iowa industries.

For example, the two-term Democratic governor of Iowa said after meeting with Democratic and Republican legislators, he may have to furlough safety inspectors at food processing plant.

If that happens, the sequestration will have a ripple effect, Vilsack warned.

“If I take an inspector off that line, that line shuts down,” he explained, “but it’s not just the food inspector. It’s also the folks working in those plants and the livestock producers who want a regulated way to sell their product.”

Despite the looming deadline, Congress and Vilsack’s boss, President Obama, have been unable to resolve the sequestration plan the White House proposed and Congress enacted in August 2011.

So Vilsack sought to make sure legislators – and Gov. Terry Branstad, who he met with Friday – under stood the “this sequester thing is real.”

He wanted them to understand that funding agreements with the federal government can be affected if the across-the-board cuts go into effect March 1.

“Hopefully, they have evaluated and have contingency plans,” he said.

So far, Congress has rejected the president’s plan for avoiding the sequestration and the Senate has ignored the House plan to avoid the cuts that would amount to $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

So he hopes lawmakers and the public will demand action.

“The people of the United States have the power” to tell Congress to act. “As people better understand the impact of the sequester on education, on health care, on food safety on emergency response … they are going to demand something is done to prevent this.”

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