By Shruti Date Singh
A prolonged U.S. government shutdown may stall delivery of vaccines that poultry, cattle and hog companies need for food safety and animal health, three poultry groups said in a letter to congressional members today.
Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who analyze samples from companies and approve the release of vaccines for commercial sale have been furloughed this week as part of the shutdown, according to a letter sent today by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and other members of Congress.
“Two weeks of stalled vaccine delivery will directly impact food safety, animal health and bio-security,” according to the letter. “Because producers hold limited supply of these vaccines, many of the large poultry, swine and cattle companies will be out of critical vaccine in a matter of days.”
Previously, the USDA deemed the function “essential” like federal inspectors at meat plants, according to the council’s website. So far the furloughed USDA employees haven’t affected operations among meat and poultry suppliers, which have access to stockpiles of vaccinations.
“Currently, there is enough supply in the system,” Farha Aslam, a New York-based analyst for Stephens Inc., said in a telephone interview today. “If the government shutdown is extended then animal-production systems could be impacted.”
Cargill Inc., the second-largest beef producer and fourth-largest pork processor in the U.S., has at least a 60-day supply of vaccines available for its turkeys, hogs and cattle, Mike Martin, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-based company, said in an e-mail today.
Sanderson Farms Inc. (SAFM), the third-largest U.S. chicken producer, expects its supplies to last more than two weeks, Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer of the Laurel, Mississippi-based company, said in an e-mail today.
“We have ample supplies on hand and have no reason to believe that our suppliers will be unable to produce already approved medications,” he said.
Matt Paul, a USDA spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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