Empowering legislation in both Iowa Code Chapter 198 and Chapter 159
FAIRFIELD, Iowa, September 16, 2010 – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture candidate Francis Thicke (pronounced TICK-ee) said today that in the aftermath of the largest egg recall in U.S. history, one-term incumbent Bill Northey has done nothing to reassure Iowans that he has the political will and leadership skills to provide needed oversight over industrial-scale egg production.
Thicke, the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 2 election, said Northey continues to make excuses for failing to exercise his authority, found in Iowa Code Chapter 198, to inspect a feed mill at Wright County Egg believed to be the source of a strain of Salmonella enteritidis that sickened about 1,600 people and led to the recall of a half-billion eggs. Northey has disputed he has such authority and has asked the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to help him understand the law.
The facts that are publicly known indicate he has the responsibility to conduct these inspections. If it turns out he doesn’t, he should use his authority found in Chapter 159.2, which empowers the Secretary of Agriculture ‘to develop and implement policies that inspire public confidence in the long-term future of agriculture as an economic activity as well as a way of life.’
As ag secretary, he would use his full authority to ensure that food produced in Iowa is safe. Noting that even the new FDA regulatory framework for egg production is not strong enough – in particular, it lacks routine inspections – Thicke advocated that state officials take corrective action.
I urge the Iowa Legislature to take the commonsense action of implementing an egg Salmonella control program, similar to the model program developed in Maine. The Maine egg safety program shores up weaknesses still present in the FDA’s new egg rule.
Said Thicke, who developed his policy proposals after consulting with food-safety scientists and Maine’s state veterinarian’s office.
Specifically, the Maine program has three features that go beyond the requirements of the new FDA egg rule: 1) An effective program for vaccination of laying hens; 2) monthly inspection of laying facilities for sanitation, and testing for Salmonella within the building; and 3) egg testing when Salmonella is found in the building.
As the No. 1 egg-producing state, we ought to be the leader in ensuring public confidence in the safety of eggs produced in Iowa. Rather than looking for the authority within the law to restore integrity to Iowa’s food system, my opponent is content to sit back and wait for others to resolve the problem.
It’s not enough for the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture to say that this is a federal problem and that he is going to wait for an FDA report to see what the problem is. That does nothing to restore confidence in the integrity and reputation of Iowa’s food and agriculture system.
FRANCIS THICKE BACKGROUND:
Francis Thicke has been a full-time farmer for 27 years, is a scientist with a Ph.D. in agronomy/soil fertility, and has worked in the past at the USDA in Washington, D.C., here he served as National Program Leader for Soil Science. A frequently consulted national expert on agricultural sustainability, Thicke and his wife, Susan, own and operate an 80-cow organic, grass-based dairy near Fairfield, where they process milk on the farm into bottled milk, yogurt and cheese marketed locally through Fairfield grocery stores and restaurants. For additional information on his campaign for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, go to www.ThickeForAgriculture.com.