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What the Government Shutdown Means for Your Food

Here we are, yet again: another month, another spending bill down the drain.

Today the federal government has officially shut down -- well, "nonessential" programs, at least -- which will affect a wide range of services, from the National Institutes of Health to the National Park Service to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to even the United States Department of Agriculture; currently its website is down due to the lapse in funding.

While Congress' inability to work together to, you know, perform necessary government functions will negatively impact a wide range of issues, the effects on the USDA will impact the government's influence on food.

The USDA will still be able to keep up with basic safety operations and hunger programs. Meat -- including "USDA Choice" and "USDA Select" beef grading -- dairy, eggs, and food imports will be inspected by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is keeping 87 percent of its employees. However, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyard Administration, which is continuing with all inspections paid for by user fees, asserts that it could potentially fail in its ability to investigate violators.

Food stamps and school lunches are safe for the meantime as Congress' Recovery Act pays for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) for another year. The USDA expects the federal school lunch program should be fine until the end of this month.

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Sara Ventiera

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