At the Organization for Competitive Markets annual conference in 2004, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was dubbed USDA, Inc. because of the revolving door between the meat industry and USDA. In the research that was released at the conference, Phillip Matara outlined the problems created when meat industry leaders are leading the very agency that is supposed to be safeguarding farmers and consumers from the meat industry’s abusive practices.
15 years later the door is still revolving. Here are a few highlights:
- In 2007, the head of USDA Agriculture Marketing Service’s (AMS) Livestock and Seed Division, Barry Carpenter, became the head of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI).
- Bill Sessions, who currently serves as NAMI’s Director of Product Marketing and Promotion, was the Associate Deputy Administrator of AMS Livestock and Seed Program.
- And, the current Deputy Administrator of AMS Livestock Seed Program, Craig Morris, was a former manager of NAMI.
Yesterday, the latest of the scandalous job swapping between government and the meat industry came when Al Almanza, head of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency charged with the safety of meat and poultry in the U.S., took a position with Brazil’s JBS SA. Through its wholly owned company JBS Swift, JBS is the largest meat company in the U.S. This in and of itself would just seem like same ol’ same ol’ if not for the fact JBS SA is one of the Brazilian companies that in March the country of Brazil accused of bribing Brazilian inspectors to allow rotten and unsafe meat to be brought into the U.S and other countries. In June of this year, following actions taken in March by China, Mexico, Chili, Japan and the EU, the U.S. suspended imports of Brazilian beef to include JBS SA’s.
In a Politico interview, Mr. Al Almanza stated he had been recusing himself from any discussions about the Brazilian rotten meat scandal and the suspension of Brazilian beef into the U.S. It was his opinion that no rotten beef had gotten into the U.S. But the fact that Mr. Almanza obtained his golden parachute from government work through the very company he was responsible for investigating draws into question just how much influence does the multi-national meat industry have over our USDA.
“This whole thing stinks as much as the rotten meat that JBS SA was selling to our U.S. consumers,” stated Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “It is time USDA’s Office of Inspector General looked into the issue of USDA, Inc. and its revolving door and golden parachutes with the meat industry, and determine whether the government’s post-employment revolving door policies are adequate for the protection of the people of the United States.”