Four members of the House Agriculture Committee have written to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, asking when the USDA plans to send a final version on the proposed poultry inspection rule to the administration. The House members also are asking when the agency plans to implement the new rules.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Vice Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Congressional Chicken Caucus members Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Jim Costa, D-Calif. signed the letter on November 15.

The program, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project, is already operating as a pilot in 20 chicken plants, five turkey plants and five hog plants in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

USDA officials say they are proposing the new system to improve food safety and increase efficiency in plants. USDA inspectors say they believe food safety will be compromised because processing line speeds are allowed to increase by 25 percent in poultry plants and 30 percent in hog plants. However, about 40 percent of government inspectors are expected to be replaced by employees of the poultry and meat plants.