Spoiled meat, Rotten Congress

The USDA’s meat inspection program is virtually the same as it was in 1906. But now that the agency is trying to bring meat inspection into the 21st century, some members of Congress are battling to stick to the status quo.

The Senate regulatory reform bill (S.343) would effectively stifle the USDA’s modern, scientific inspection system which was to go into effect next month. The bill, introduced by majority leader Bob Dole, would put any government regulation through a long analysis to assess any economic impact. President Clinton has said that S.343 would let industries that are supposed to be regulated “delay and sometimes even control the rules that affect them.” (New York Times; July 18, 1995)

For its part, the House has already passed an even more radical regulatory reform package as part of its Contract with America. President Clinton has promised to veto that bill and he says he’ll veto the Senate package as well, if it goes too far.

In addition, Rep. James Walsh, R-NY, orchestrated his own crusade against the new meat inspection program. Walsh inserted a rider into a subcommittee report spelling out the details of the appropriated funds to the USDA. The rider would have halted the new program for nine months, during which time the meat and poultry industry would have been able to attack it in Congress. Walsh forced a compromise with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. In return for dropping the amendment, Glickman will allow the meat industry to air its concerns at open public hearings. (Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1995)

Walsh’s amendment, according to the Washington Post, was written in large part by Philip Olsson, a meat-industry lobbyist. The Federal Election Comission reports that Walsh has received more than $66,000 in campaign contributions since 1988 from agribusiness and the meat and food industry.(Associated Press, July 17, 1995)

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