Monday, December 8, 2008

Say it Isnt So! Stenholm Possible New Head of USDA? Says horse slaughter industry good for economy, will create jobs

Hot News from Big-Mouth Broad Casting


Stenholm Says USDA Needs to Focus More on Food Safety
(But that aint all hes saying!)

Former Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, whose name has been mentioned as a potential U.S. agriculture secretary, says he does not expect to be nominated for the job.

Stenholm told the Kansas Livestock Association Friday that he believes Colorado Democratic Rep. John Salazar is probably the top name on the list of potential appointees.

Salazar, one of the few farmers serving in Congress, would make an excellent agriculture secretary, Stenholm said.

Stenholm told reporters that he has not been contacted by the transition team that is picking the Cabinet positions.

"I make no bones about it, if the President calls I would accept it in a heartbeat," Stenholm said.

Stenholm said he was contacted Thursday by Obama representatives working on the Agriculture Department transition, who asked him to attend a meeting Monday for recommendations for other hiring decisions at the department. They also wanted to hear about the top priority agricultural issues.

Stenholm said he served on the 156-member committee that advised the Obama campaign on rural issues and had some input on the policies he adopted in his campaign.

Stenholm, now a lobbyist for a Washington law firm, said the Agriculture Department needs to be restructured so it is the only agency overseeing food safety.

"We don't have in place a system that can adequately deal with food safety," he said.

The new administration offers a perfect opportunity to transform the Agriculture Department, making it an example for all government agencies on how to do things to better serve the public, he said.

"If we can bring USDA into the 21st century with technology, we are going to be awesome," he said.

The agriculture industry also is interested in the selection of the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, amid concern over what impact stricter environmental regulations may have on agricultural operations such as feedyards.

"The selection of the EPA administrator may be more important to us in this room than the secretary of agriculture," Stenholm said.

Much of his talk to the Kansas livestock group focused on the unintended consequences the shutdown of the last three plants that slaughtered horses for human consumption in export markets. Horse owners are abandoning horses they no longer want or can afford to feed, creating problems for county governments and others who must deal with the animals.

Some states and Indian tribes are now considering possibly starting a horse slaughter facility to deal with the problem, which would also create jobs and bring in an industry, Stenholm said.

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