Vilsack lays out priorities, including fixing food safety


By Janie Gabbett on 1/27/2009


Source of Article:



Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he wants to modernize the food safety system, including focusing meat inspection on pathogen prevention and containment.

"A modernized system would have as a goal prevention, early detection if it can't be prevented, and mitigation of any adverse impacts if something occurs," Vilsack told journalists on a conference call.

Addressing calls from some consumer groups and legislators for a singe food safety agency that would combine USDA and FDA, Vilsack was quoted as saying, "I think before there can be any conversation about merging of entities or a single agency or anything of that sort, you've got to get the foundation right."

Vilsack promised to quickly name a new head of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection service. Last week USDA named Ron Hicks Acting Deputy Under Secretary to lead the Office of Food Safety during the interim of the incoming administration. Hicks recently served as FSIS' chief operating officer.

In a news release, USDA outlined some of Vilsack's priorities:

  • Advancing renewable energy sources while also making sure the biofuels industry has the support to survive recent market challenges
  • Making progress on major environmental challenges, including climate change while helping farmers participate in markets that reward them for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions
  • Providing a safety net for farmer and ranchers (including independent producers and local and organic agriculture)that includes enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act
  • Modernizing the food safety system
  • Quickly implementing the 2008 farm bill
  • Combating childhood obesity and enhancing health and nutrition
  • Investing in programs that alleviate hunger and suffering overseas and support long-term agriculture development.
  • Restoring the mission of the Forest Service as a protector of clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat and a key player in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration
  • Modernizing USDA's computer systems and
  • Cleaning up USDA's civil rights record.



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