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Country celebrates another birthday with no delivery for top jobs

Yesterday was he 242nd birthday of the United States of America.

What may have slipped by with your nothing is the fact that it was the 1,665 days since the there was a presidential appointed and Senate confirmed Under Secretary for Food Safety in office.

Now, 60 days after President Donald J. Trump nominated Texas Tech University Mindy Brashears as USDA’s next Under Secretary for Food Safety, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has done exactly nothing to confirm the appointment. 

Since May 10, the professor and director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University has been waiting for the committee to act.

The Senate committee has not exactly expressed an excuse for its neglecting food safety, but if it did it would likely name its quadrennial spending fest known as the Farm Bill, which has not yet been embraced in identical forms by both houses of Congress.

So, tied up with that spending, the committee’s website has not even yet reported that the Brashears nomination even exists, let alone disclosed a timeline for a hearing on it.

The most important federal food safety job has gone vacant for since Dec. 13, 2013.   President Obama was satisfied with leaving former Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Al Almanza in the top job on an acting basis. Although Almanza retired in later summer 2017, President Trump did not name Brashears until two months ago.

Now it’s the U.S. Senate that is putting time on the clock. An inquiry by Food Safety News into  to the committee majority’s media staff about when action on Brashears nomination might be scheduled went unanswered.

Since her May 4 nomination, Brashears spent sometime in Washington D.C. going through the “murder boards” practice for her Senate nomination hearing. She has had preparatory help from Richard Raymond, who was USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety under former President George W. Bush.

But mostly she’s been waiting and going about her duties at Texas Tech University where she is the professor of food safety and public health who is also director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence.

She is also not alone. While Trump has won confirmations for 330 of the 600 appointees in top jobs in the federal government, another 146 including Brashears are waiting for the Senate to confirm their nominations. Trump has yet to name anyone to another 185 positions, saying only so many can be pushed through at a time.

The Under Secretary for Food Safety was established by the 1993-94 USDA Reorganization Act requiring the president to name, and the Senate confirm, a USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety. It is the highest food safety job in the U.S. government. Since it was created it has been filled by a confirmed appointee about half the time.

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