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Tyson Foods opens DC office

(Friday, Nov. 29, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Judy Sarasohn, Washington Post: After laying low for a couple of years, what with all that unpleasantness with former independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz, Tyson Foods Inc. has opened a new Washington office that is headed by veteran meat industry lobbyist Sara Lilygren. She was hired away from the American Meat Institute, where she was senior vice president for legislative and public affairs.

Archie Schaffer III, senior vice president of external relations for the giant Arkansas poultry company, noted that Tyson Foods acquired the nation's largest beef and pork company, IBP Inc., last year and both the meat and poultry industries face substantial federal government oversight. Schaffer said Tyson Foods is now the country's largest meat and poultry firm and has $23 billion in annual sales and 120,000 employees.

"The federal government touches our operations and business in many ways. We feel it's imperative to running our business to have a presence in Washington, to get our story told on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue," Schaffer said.

Joining Lilygren will be Nora Venegas, who worked for SBC Telecommunications Inc.'s Washington office and earlier served as executive assistant to the executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

"It's a great opportunity. [Tyson Foods] is a leader in the industry I've been working for for the last 18 years," Lilygren said.

She noted that the American Meat Institute also represents turkey companies.

"I have some familiarity with feathers," she said.

The last couple of years, the company has generally relied on trade associations for its lobbying in Washington. Earlier, it depended on lobbyist Jack Williams.

Caught up in the Smaltz probe into former Clinton agriculture secretary Mike Espy, Tyson Foods pleaded guilty in December 1997 to providing about $12,000 in illegal gifts to Espy, Williams was convicted of lying to investigators and Schaffer was convicted of providing an illegal gratuity to Espy. Schaffer's and Williams's convictions were thrown out and then reinstated. They were pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

Espy was acquitted of bribery charges.