Browsing: Agriculture

Pork you can believe in

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Despite what you may have seen on the Drudge Report website this morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants to ensure Americans that his department did not spend $1.2 million for two pounds of sliced ham. A series of alarmist headlines posted at the top of the Drudge Report home page lists details on some of the purchases Agriculture has made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The headlines, which link to summaries of contracts on the Recovery.gov website, seem to suggest that Agriculture is wasting stimulus money on groceries — and worse, getting overcharged. The headlines indicate that Agriculture awarded contracts of nearly $16.8…

Leading the (green) way

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Federal agencies having a tough time meeting the plethora of green government mandates should take a close look at the 15 federal teams who have been recognized this year for spearheading environmentally sustainable practices at their agencies. Winners of the 2009 White House Closing the Circle Awards — handed out Wednesday during the middle of the three-day 2009 Federal Environmental Symposium East in Bethesda, Md. –  are demonstrating best practices in areas such as recycling, green purchasing and fuel conservation. The big winner was the Air Force, which received four awards for initiatives under way at local bases and headquarters. The…

2010 Budget: Program cuts

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During a news briefing this morning at the Old Executive Office Building to roll out his 2010 budget, President Obama provided a little more detail about some of the nearly $2 trillion in proposed cuts he mentioned during his joint session to Congress on Tuesday. The highlights — or lowlights, depending on your view: Nearly $200 million at the Interior Department by cutting programs to clean up abandoned coal mines that have already been cleaned up. Nearly $20 million by modernizing programs and streamlining bureaucracy at the Agriculture Department. Tens of millions of dollars by cutting an Education Department student…

Too many regulators, not enough money

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The recent peanut butter recall — products from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) were contaminated with salmonella — makes a strong case for completely overhauling our food safety system. First, I think it underscores the need to merge FDA’s food safety functions with those of the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service — in other words, creating a single food regulator.  Why? We’ve learned that USDA bought peanuts from PCA and used them for school lunch programs. In fact, it was one of the company’s two biggest customers. And it regularly sent inspectors to review records at PCA’s processing facility. But so did the FDA, the agency…

Vilsack: Modernize USDA IT, Work Force

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said modernizing agency information technology systems and addressing the aging work force will be top priorities for him. He said during a teleconference earlier today: It is important to me that the USDA be also a place of a modern workforce and a modern workplace. We’ll be focusing on IT improvements, process improvements and an empowered and diverse workforce to make that happen.”

Senate confirms seven Cabinet nominees

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President Barack Obama’s Cabinet now has eight official members. The Senate voted by voice vote just before 4 p.m. today to confirm the following seven nominees: Steven Chu for Energy, Arne Duncan for Education, Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, Peter Orszag for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Ken Salazar for Interior, Eric Shinseki for Veterans Affairs and Tom Vilsak for Agriculture. His Cabinet already included Robert Gates, whom Obama asked to stay on as Defense secretary. But things aren’t moving so quickly for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state nomination. After her smooth hearing before the Senate…

Getting the skinny on biobased products

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Sure, we’ve been reporting for some time on the government’s requirement to purchase products made from agricultural or biological materials (see here, here and here). But Sen. Tom Harkin thinks it’s time for an update. During today’s confirmation hearing for former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to head the Agriculture Department, the Iowa Democrat said he will use his position as chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee to address the biobased procurement requirement, which Harkin inserted into the 2002 Farm Bill. Specifically, Harkin said he would call every Cabinet secretary before the committee to ask…