Possible sequestration threatens high plains economy

Wednesday the Pentagon announced that 800 thousand civilians who work for the department of defense could be furloughed, and 85 billion dollars in cuts could kick in if no budget agreement is made before March 1.

"The defense spending occupy about 18 percent of the total budget right now, but 50 percent of the cuts are going to come from defense," said U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry. "A lot of those are come from readiness and training, but also operational accounts."

If sequestration moves forward, the intention is to have civilians not work for one day for 22 weeks.

Locally, Thornberry said that government agencies like Pantex, and Bell Helicopter will be affected.

It could also affect what the Texas Cattle Feeder Association says is our number two economic resource, agriculture.

"For our local economy, higher production cost or loss of income, that's then set off by higher meat prices, that really impacts us all," said Jim Bret Campbell TCFA Director of Communications and Member Relations.

The TCFA predicts it could mean millions of dollars of losses for the high plains meat packing industry.

Cattle feeders and owners will be forced to keep cattle on feed and hold them longer, which not only affects them but consumers as well. Limited meat and poultry supply will lead to higher pricing.

"If it does, we are certainly encouraging Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack to find other ways to meet the budget shortfall in the mandated sequestration, rather than cutting meat inspectors who are mandated by law."

Members of the TCFA are concerned about the potential economic impact we could be facing here in cattle country, and what budget cuts could do to the meat supply chain.

A final decision is due a week from Friday, but exactly how these across the board cuts are going to be implemented is still unknown.