For Immediate Release

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Seth Gladstone – sgladstone@fwwatch.org

Senate Democrats Question USDA Over “Big Ag Bailout” Money

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, Senate Democrats led by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging an end to trade mitigation policy purchases that benefit foreign-owned companies, saying that “it is counterproductive and contradictory for these companies to receive assistance paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars intended to help American farmers struggling with this administration’s trade policy.” The letter comes on the heels of Food & Water Watch’s demands for a Congressional inquiry into the USDA’s relationship with JBS, a Brazilian-based meat corporation mired in multiple scandals that has received millions in contracts for purchasing meat as part of the agency’s program to alleviate the impact of tariffs on U.S. agriculture. The former USDA Deputy Under Secretary for food safety, Alfred V. Almanza, is currently the Vice President for Global Food and Safety and Quality at JBS, a position he has held since August 2017.

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement:

“We applaud this important letter by Senate Democrats. U.S. farmers are reeling from decades of policies that benefit big multinational corporations like JBS. But this isn’t just another ‘Get Big or Get Out’ policy that we’ve seen unfolding over recent decades that benefits factory farms over family farms. This is a corporate money grab that the USDA, remarkably, continues to defend. The funds being dispersed for commodity purchases under the trade mitigation program may as well be called a Big Ag bailout.

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“At the same time that tariff relief is going to foreign-owned corporations, our food growing regions are being battered by climate chaos in the form of extreme weather and flooding. The communities that feed us are struggling unlike ever before, yet Secretary Perdue continues to defend dispensing U.S. taxpayer dollars to Brazilian-based JBS. It’s not a good look, especially since a former high-ranking USDA official is now at JBS overseeing a pilot program to deregulate meat inspections that he helped shape under his tenure in government.

“The U.S. Congress should immediately call for an investigation into USDA’s dealings with JBS. The commodity purchase program is a good place to start. It must also look into the food safety ramifications of USDA’s ultra-cozy relationship with the company. We call on Congressional agriculture committee chairs, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), to initiate a formal investigation immediately.”

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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