Instead of furloughing meat inspectors, why not cancel the wine-tasting getaway in California?

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., posed that question this week to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, noting that two USDA-sponsored conferences are coming up despite the budget anxiety in Washington over the sequester. One in California includes a “tasting reception;” another in Oregon includes a “wine tasting” element, according to Coburn.

“While these conferences may be fun, interesting and even educational getaways for department employees, food inspecting rather than food tasting should be USDA’s priority at this time,” Coburn said in the letter.

The letter referred to the California Small Farm Conference in Fresno, Calif., a USDA-sponsored event that starts March 10. The event brings farmers and others in the agriculture industry together, and includes a “tasting reception” — which features “regional bounty” from local chefs, farms, breweries and wineries and is apparently the most well-attended event.