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Senate Confirms Hagen: Now She’ll Speak

In one of her first major public appearances after Senate confirmation Thursday, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, under secretary for Food Safety, will be the opening speaker at public meetings later this month held by the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI).

Dr. Hagen took over USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) through an unusual “recess” appointment on Aug. 19 by President Obama. A “recess” appointment, made when Congress is not in session, does not require U.S. Senate confirmation, but would have lasted only until the current Congress ends.

The Senate took care of that Thursday, voting to confirm Hagen’s appointment as USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, thereby making her appointment permanent.

After Hagen was confirmed, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said there is “no higher priority at USDA than ensuring that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply.”

Her opening remarks will kickoff the Sept. 29-30 public meetings of the committee that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack only recently reestablished with a charter and membership for 2010-2012.

Obama first nominated Hagen to the post Jan. 25, but when the Senate had not brought her confirmation to a vote before the long summer recess began — even though the Agricultural Committee had unanimously recommended approval — he filled the job on his own.

  

With the prohibitions against speaking outside the Senate process during confirmation, Hagen has recently been able to speak out only on her own. She told the North American Meat Processors Association on Sept. 9 that FSIS will work with outside groups in an “open door” policy.

There is widespread interest in her views and approach to issues bottled up at FSIS, ranging from the Farm Bill’s mandate for the agency to regulate foreign catfish to the petition to label non-O157:H7 E. coli as adulterants.

The two-day NACMPI meetings in Washington, D.C. will focus on data collection, analysis, response and transparency, and strengthening policy and collaboration in pre-harvest food safety.

Originally established in 1971, NACMPI has traditionally held public meetings about twice a year.  However, this is the first time the outside advisory group has met in more than two years.

  

It exists to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on food safety and federal and state inspections.   It also contributes to USDA’s regulatory policy development.

Like previous panels, the 20-member group appointed by Vilsack includes a mix of interests from the regulatory, academic, industry, and consumer communities.

Also confirmed by the Senate Thursday was Catherine Woteki, as under secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Her nomination had been moving faster than Hagen’s.

Vilsack said Woteki “brings an incredible depth of experience that will help USDA accelerate scientific discovery and application of new knowledge to address challenges facing US and global food and agriculture.”

 

The NACMPI public meeting is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 29, 2010 and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at the South Building Cafeteria, USDA, 14th & Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 

As part of the public meeting, subcommittees of the NACMPI will hold open meetings during their deliberations and report preparation. A complete agenda, registration, and documents relating to the meeting are available here.

For more information on the content of the meeting, contact Josh Stull of FSIS at 202-720-9113, or via e-mail at josh.stull@fsis.usda.gov. 

For general meeting and logistical information, contact Tiffanie Newman of FSIS at 202-720-9113, or via e-mail at tiffanie.newman@fsis.usda.gov. FSIS welcomes comments through Oct. 18, 2010 on the topics discussed at the NACMPI public meeting. 

Comments may be submitted through e-mail at NACMPI@fsis.usda.gov.

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