A new report warns that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has damaged the USDA by removing protections for small farmers, compromising food safety and eliminating the agency’s rural development mission.
Researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists traced Sonny Perdue’s most troubling moves during his political career as governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011.
The report, titled “Betrayal at the USDA,” compares past behavior with moves he’s made during his tenure at the USDA.
Perdue’s record in Georgia includes a long list of ethics violations, crony appointments, and passing legislation that he profits from.
The report argues that he has continued to use a revolving door to fill leadership positions at the USDA, including former business partners, lobbyists and agribusiness executives.
Notable examples include Kailee Tkacz, a former lobbyist for the Corn Refiners Association and Snack Food Association, who was appointed as a key advisor on dietary guidelines after receiving an ethics waiver from the White House. Tkacz does not have any experience in science, public health or nutrition.
There have also been audacious denials of scientific consensus, including an announcement that World Health Organization guidelines against using medically important antibiotics in agriculture were “not in alignment with US policy and are not supported by sound science.”
The report also cites the department’s lobbying to undo a ban on the nerve-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has been shown to cause nerve damage in children.
The group calls for Congress to investigate ethics issues, and to only confirm qualified scientists or economists in key posts such as undersecretary for research, economics and education.
USDA Secretary Accused Of Siding With Industry Over Science In New Report (The Guardian)
Betrayal at the USDA, 2018 (Union of Concerned Scientists)