HSUS CONTINUES TO INFILTRATE USDA RANKS
Agriculture Secretary and head of the USDA Tom Vilsack just can’t help himself. His continued partnership with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the very people who are attempting to put farmers out of work and make it difficult for American families to buy affordable food at the grocery store, has troubled many for a long time.
His most recent transgression against the agricultural community is in the appointment of one of the nineteen members of the USDA Advisory Committee on Animal Health, a man named Michael Blackwell. Blackwell is a veterinarian and is the director of veterinarian policy at HSUS. It would seem as if Tom Vilsack is not even attempting to hide his bias anymore. This appointment is an outrage and a betrayal to the hardworking individuals who rely on the USDA to make good policy decisions for the good of the industry and for the American people.
Let’s back up for a second and remind ourselves of Vilsack’s past bias towards HSUS. When President Obama appointed him to the post of Ag Secretary in 2008, he had little qualification in the industry aside from his state of origin (Iowa). Having such few ties to farmers and ranchers going in, you could see how he could be easily swayed by outside groups. That would come soon enough in the form of a large favor from HSUS. From our previous article on the relationship between the Vilsacks and the animal rights organization, who provided a great deal of funding for Christie Vilsack’s campaign for Congress:
“Vilsack’s wife, Christie, had her unsuccessful campaign to run for Iowa’s U.S. Representative seat financed by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Not surprisingly, Secretary Vilsack has allowed the animal rights group’s interests to be heard in many aspects of his decision-making on agricultural issues, such as the USDA’s support of “Meatless Monday.” Under Vilsack, USDA has even hired former HSUS employees which has led to increased, unjustified scrutiny of animal breeders.”
Last year, Vilsack made waves by supporting a second beef checkoff program, one that would interfere with the current beef checkoff program. If it had been enacted, Vilsack would’ve been able to stock the checkoff board full of his HSUS cronies (see: Michael Blackwell’s appointment) and flip the checkoff on its head. The move would cost cattle producers (the ones who pay into the system and who should be the only ones managing the checkoff) a great deal of money in the long run and that cost would of course be felt by beef consumers as well. Thankfully, Tom Vilsack and the USDA received heavy backlash for even proposing such an idea and they announced that a second checkoff would not be pursued.
This did not ease the tension between him and the rest of the Ag industry, however. The free reign he is wielding must be held in check. Otherwise, we will see more of these biased appointments, such as Michael Blackwell and Sarah Conant, a former HSUS lawyer who became the USDA’s Chief Inspector for its Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) in 2013. As Beef Daily describes it, there’s a “fox in the henhouse”, and we couldn’t agree more. These issues will continue to pop up due to Vilsack’s corruption, and the rest of the industry must band together to fight back against this radical war on agriculture.