USDA's Amazing Ties To
The Beef Industry

At a Senate hearing yesterday, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman assured senators that her department is protecting the nation's food safety in the wake of the first case of mad cow disease here. Yet the Bush Administration has packed the agency charged with protecting consumers from tainted meat with officials who hold close ties to the beef industry.
The USDA is heavily staffed by former employees of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other farm industry groups, all of whom have a financial stake in how the nation's food supply is regulated.
Even the office that controls government communication with the public is staffed by a former beef industry employee. USDA Press Secretary Alisa Harrison is former director of public relations for the cattlemen's group.
Harrison's role hasn't changed much since she took her post at USDA. Ever since a cow infected with mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state last month, Harrison has regularly assured the public that the situation is under control.[2]
But, in fact, lax government policies and a lack of adequate testing have allowed conditions to develop in the U.S. similar to those that led to the emergence of the disease in Great Britain. [3] The USDA failed to ban "downer cows," the sick and injured animals most likely to carry mad cow disease, from Americans' food supply until after last month's mad cow discovery.
Other USDA employees with ties to the industries they oversee:
Elizabeth Johnson, Senior Advisor on Food and Nutrition; formerly associate director for Food Policy, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
James Moseley, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; formerly managing partner of Infinity Pork, LLC, an Indiana hog farm
Dale Moore, Chief of Staff; formerly executive director for legislative affairs, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Dr. Eric Hentges, Director, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; formerly vice president for the National Pork Board; director of Consumer Nutrition and Health Research, National Pork Producers Council; director of Human Nutrition Research, National Livestock and Meat Board
Dr. Charles "Chuck" Lambert, Deputy Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs; formerly chief economist, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Donna Reifschneider, Administrator for Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration; formerly executive committee member, Meat Export Federation, 1999-2002, and president, National Pork Producers Council. With her family, owns a large hog farm in Illinois
Mary Kirtley Waters, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations; formerly senior director and legislative counsel, ConAgra Foods
Scott Charbo, Chief Information Officer; formerly president, mPower3, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods
[1] "The Cow Jumped Over the USDA," The New York Times, Jan. 2, 2004
[2] Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine <>Mad Cow Disease Fact Sheet
[3] <>"Vote Blocked Ban on Ill Cows," The San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 7, 2004
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