Kathleen Merrigan

President Barack Obama today announced his intention to nominate Kathleen A. Merrigan to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

“We at the U.S. Department of Agriculture welcome the President's intention to nominate Dr. Merrigan,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “She will bring to USDA extensive expertise in agricultural marketing and nutrition and in legislative affairs and will provide excellent, experienced leadership as we move President Obama's agricultural and nutritional agenda forward.”

Merrigan currently is an assistant professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston.

In 1999, she was appointed administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service by then-President Clinton. Prior to that, Merrigan was a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and an expert consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.

From 1987 to 1992 she was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry where she helped develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 which mandated national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation.

Merrigan holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in environmental planning and policy, a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas and a B.A. from Williams College.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tufts University for image

Pilgrim's Pride discrimination hearing set for next month

A bankruptcy judge has set a hearing for March 10 to determine if Pilgrim’s Pride discriminated against chicken growers when it canceled their contracts. The chicken producer and processor terminated the contracts of about two dozen growers in Live Oak, Fla., last year after filing for bankruptcy protection.

Nine of the growers are challenging the termination, claiming that they were target because they were Hispanic, didn’t agree with the company or had formed a poultry club similar to a union, AP reports. Pilgrim’s attorney, Stephen Youngman, said the company didn’t violate a federal law that protects workers in the meat and livestock industry from discrimination. Rather, the layoffs were part of the cost-cutting measures needed to reorganize during bankruptcy.

“Harm to the parties, while unfortunate, is something the court should not take into account,” Youngman told the judge. “A debtor's primary duty is to maximize the estate.”

Source: Associated Press

Maple Leaf Foods announces Listeria recall

Maple Leaf Foods announced a recall of 1,100 cases of its Shopsy’s All Beef Frankfurters and Maple Leaf Original Hot Dogs while announcing that last year’sListeriaoutbreak and recall cost the company an estimated $69 million (Can.) before taxes in the fourth quarter.

The hot dogs were produced at the company’s Hamilton, Ontario, plant and were shipped in violation of its food safety standards, according to Reuters. It attributed the recall to “human error,” noting that some of the hot dogs had tested positive for Listeria but were mistakenly shipped out of quarantine.

On the financial side, Maple Leaf Farms said that its loss for the fourth quarter was $14.6 (Can.) million, improving from a $22.1 (Can) million loss the year before. Sales rose to $1.34 (Can.) billion, up from $1.27 (Can) billion from a year ago.

Source: Reuters, The Canadian Press

Montana House attempting to bring horse slaughter back to U.S.

The Montana House of Representatives has strongly endorsed a bill that allows for the construction of a horse slaughterhouse in Montana. The measure was endorsed 67-33 on Tuesday and is schedules for another House vote today. If it passes, it will go to the Senate for more hearings and votes.

According to AP reports, ranchers and horse-owners have struggled to dispose of old, sick or injured horses ever since the country’s horse slaughterhouses were shut down in 2007. The bill’s backer, Rep. Ed Butcher (R), says the bill provides for a humane and regulated processing plant. “Demand is there. We want a humane way to address the problem.”

The bill’s backers are noting that horse owners, who may not be able to afford the cost of euthanasia and disposal fees, have been abandoning old and lame horses on public lands. In 2007, more than 78,000 horses were exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter after the last of the U.S. horse slaughterhouses were shut down.

Source: Associated Press
By Sam Gazdziak