The automatic budget cuts as a result of sequestration are scheduled to take effect on March 1. USDA has indicated this action could result in a furlough of meat and poultry inspectors for up to 15 days. For plants to operate, an inspector must be present. USDA estimates that sequestration and furlough would affect over 6,000 establishments, nationwide, and cost over $10 billion in production losses. Industry workers stand to lose $400 million in wages. A group of meat and poultry trade associations have written USDA stating their concerns with the possibility of furloughing USDA meat, poultry and egg products inspectors as a result of sequestration. The groups said that furloughing Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) inspectors would be “inconsistent with the mandates of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act, which prohibit the production, processing or interstate distribution of meat, poultry and egg products without federal inspection.” Those signing the letter included the Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association and U.S. Meat Export Federation. USDA has indicated that unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, it has no choice but to furlough inspectors in order to stay within the budget Congress has given it.