Concerns expressed on USDA employees' vaccine mandate

FSIS inspectors and local FSA staff must be vaccinated starting Nov. 22 or face termination.


Jacqui Fatka, BEEF Magazine 

Nov 17, 2021


Requirements that all federal employees must receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 22 or face termination have those in the food supply chain concerned about a shortage of federal inspectors as well as employees at USDA offices.


A letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Turkey Federation raised concerns about the effects on USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and other USDA personnel from the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.


Implementation of the mandate, the organizations point out, may lead to a loss of some FSIS meat inspectors, resulting in packing plant disruptions and closures. They note that the meatpacking industry already has limited harvest capacity because of increasing demand for meat and poultry, a severe labor shortage in rural communities and pandemic-related supply chain challenges.


“We cannot emphasize enough how detrimental even minor disruptions in processing capacity and other critical USDA functions may be, as we cannot afford to exacerbate existing supply chain issues at such a fragile point in our recovery,” the letter states.


The agricultural groups ask for “clarification on how USDA will mitigate potential disruptions in staffing with the implementation of this [vaccine] directive.”


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