The U.S. Senate hasn’t scheduled her confirmation hearing yet. A local radio disc jockey has called her a “pink slime denier.” But, nothing really terrible has happened to Mindy Brashears in the past month.
Since May 10, the professor and director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University has also been President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for USDA’s next Under Secretary for Food Safety.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has the job of reviewing Brashears before confirmation, but it is not acting with any urgency about filling the USDA’s top food safety job. The post has been vacant for four years, five months, and 23 days.
Ethan, the “Awesome 98” radio jockey in Lubbock, TX, seemingly failed to understand how Brashears’ expert testimony on what was meat and what was beef in the BPI v. ABC trial helped the South Dakota beef processor taking the Disney-owned network for an astounding $177 million.
Like Lubbock local disc jockey, others are also hoping they can build on Brashears success in some manner that will prevent her Senate confirmation. Keeping Trump nominees from serving is one of Washington D.C.’s most active junior varsity sports for the Democratic minority. Most of the game merely involves moving as slow as humanly possible.
Five hundred days into the Trump Administration, only 50 percent of the federal government’s “key” positions are filled with presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate, according to Partnership for Public Service and the Washington Post. It’s so bad, there is not even a U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, where the U.S.-North Korea Summit is scheduled on June 12.
Brenda Fitzgerald, Trump’s first director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had to step down because of tobacco and pharmaceutical purchases. Fitzgerald did not direct the investments nor was she paying attention when a fund manager made the transactions, but Senate Democrats were on top it.
Ethics experts said Fitzgerald owned hundreds of stocks, and there was no evidence any of them influenced her, but she failed to understand federal ethics game, which requires following the rules carefully and structuring one’s wealth accordingly to avoid such pitfalls.
As one of 127 appointees now awaiting confirmation — Brashears’ wealth has come from her university research, expert testimony, and product development, including 17 patents. The news site AllGov.com reports the Nutrition Physiology Corp. distributed Bavomine Meat Cultures developed by Brashears in 2006 to reduce Salmonella and E. coli bacteria in beef and poultry with royalties shared with Texas Tech.
The corporation helped fund the original research. Brashears also brought the MicroZap to market in 2008, which was a microwave process to purify food and water.
Ethics experts say there are various routes through the federal financial conflicts of interest statute, which sometimes involve divesting holdings or entering into multiple types of ethics agreements. There are even provisions for exemptions and waivers if financial holdings involve various kinds of complexities.
Even as recently as the Obama Administration, one candidate for Under Secretary for Food Safety reportedly pulled out rather than find solutions to some patent issues.
While all this is sorted out, the inbox for the Under Secretary for Food Safety continues to fill up with decisions that need to be made. If she is confirmed, Brashears will have to decide “What is meat?” Or, she might be able to punt the whole issue of plant and refined alternative protein products down the road.
Either way, she’ll find more than 6,000 letters waiting in her inbox on the subject. It’s an issue confronting the next Under Secretary for Food Safety because of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association does not like the fact that those alternative protein sources want to use the focus-group created term “clean meat” for their products.
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