E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Dorr nomination likely to languish on Senate floor

by Robert Schubert
CropChoice editor

(Aug. 1, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Although members of the Senate Agriculture Committee today voted to report the nomination of Thomas Dorr to be USDA Undersecretary of Rural Development and a board member of the Commodity Credit Corporation, they did so without recommending that the full Senate approve him for the positions.

"The nomination of Mr. Dorr is essentially done," said Seth Boffeli, spokesman for Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the committee. "His nomination is still alive on the floor, but there's not much pressure for the majority leader to bring up a vote for someone who did not receive the consent of the committee."

Sen. Harkin opened the session by highlighting some of Dorr's public statements that have drawn criticism from numerous farm, labor, religious, environmental, social justice and consumer organizations.

In 1998, he told a New York Times reporter that he envisions 225,000-acre corporate farms replacing smaller, family farms; The average Iowa farm is 350 acres. A year later, he criticized the state of Iowa for, in his view, moving too slowly to adopt factory hog operations.

Iowa farmer Vern Tigges, a member of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, voiced his displeasure with this in a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register:

"... His support for the factory-farm model of livestock production would further the expansion of giant hog farms that pollute the environment, disrupt rural communities and force family farmers off the land...If Dorr is appointed undersecretary of rural development, the prosperity and health of rural communities, access to economic opportunity for farm and rural families and the future of this country's rural environment are at stake."

Dorr also has made controversial racial statements, one of which Harkin quoted; "The other thing that is interesting to me and I know this is not the correct environment, but the three most successful, you’ll notice they’re not particularly diverse, they’re not ethnically diverse, non-diverse in ethnic and religious background, and there’s something in that."

Organizations such as the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives use that and other statements as the basis for their opposition to the nomination.

"Considering the history of racial discrimination at USDA, I find it highly inappropriate that President Bush has chosen a nominee that stated publicly that lack of ethnic diversity builds successful communities," said Leon Crump of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. "Mr. Dorr would be required to work within minority communities, but has not demonstrated that he has the sensitivity to do that."

In addition to his views on farming and race, issues with Dorr's finances have come to light. The Iowa farmer admitted in March that he structured his family’s finances to avoid the producer caps for farm subsidies. He repaid the government $17,000 for these violations in 1994 and 1995. Last month the USDA revealed that, due to further investigations sparked by his confessions, one of his family trusts has had to repay another $17,000 for additional violations.

"As a farmer, I am outraged that Dorr has suggested that the way he structured his farm to maximize his government payments is standard operating procedure," said Bill Christison, a Missouri grain farmer and president of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and National Family Farm Coalition. "Not only that, but USDA has yet to release full information about him. Should the Senate Agriculture Committee really reward USDA's refusal of full information on this nominee? The information we have already is damaging enough --- what else does Dorr have to hide?"

Neither Thomas Dorr nor Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of his supporters, could be reached for comment.