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NFFC urges the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold a hearing regarding renomination of Thomas Dorr, undersecretary of Rural Development

(Wednesday, May 21, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news releases

Contact: George Naylor (515) 544-3464
Katherine Ozer (202) 543-5675

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 20, 2003 The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) urges the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee members to fully consider the pending nomination of Thomas Dorr as the Undersecretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by holding a hearing instead of its planned business meeting. The NFFC delivered a letter* Tuesday with this sentiment, signed by 20 organizations, to the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee members.

"Dorr's vision of rural development depends on getting rid of family farmers and small towns first,” said George Naylor, NFFC president and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member. “This re-nomination vote indicates the failure of the Bush administration to stand up for independent family farmers and its inability to understand the realities of working to earn a living in rural America."

The business meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, May 21, 2003, will allow the Senate Agriculture Committee to vote on Dorr’s re-nomination without any further witnesses or direct questioning in his role as Undersecretary for Rural Development since August 2002. President Bush recess appointed Dorr to this position shortly after the Senate Agriculture Committee reported out his nomination with “no recommendation” in early August 2002. NFFC led a national campaign, involving over 165 farm, labor, church and community groups, opposing Dorr’s nomination.

"Dorr's re-nomination represents the most extreme extension of the current agriculture policy that consolidates farming, land and profits into the hands of a few corporations at the expense of millions of rural residents and consumers," said Naylor. "If the Committee refuses to hold a hearing, then the National Family Farm Coalition, representing the interests of family farmers and rural communities, urges U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee members to vote against Dorr's undemocratic re-nomination."


The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), founded in 1986, brings together farmers and others to organize national projects focused on preserving and strengthening family farms and rural communities. The organization’s mission is to serve as a national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues. NFFC membership currently consists of 30 grassroots farm, resource conservation, and rural advocacy groups from 32 states. NFFC coordinates grass roots efforts on the following issues: farm and trade policy centered on cost of production plus profit pricing at the farm level; equal access to farm credit programs; environmental stewardship; an affordable food supply; educational campaigns about biotechnology and corporate control of food production. For further information about the organization, call 1-800-639-3276 or visit www.nffc.net.

May 20, 2003

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Senate Agriculture Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Cochran,

The undersigned organizations request that the Senate Agriculture Committee hold a hearing to fully consider the pending nomination of Thomas Dorr as the Undersecretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Dorr’s re-nomination will be voted on at your Wednesday May 21, 2003 business meeting without any further witnesses or direct questioning since his holding this position (August 2002). Over 160 organizations raised serious questions about his ability to represent rural and farmer interests over two years ago based on these concerns:

  • Dorr champions the corporate takeover of agriculture. His vision of farming is a "centrally managed" 225,000-acre operationthat is 1 farm for every 350 square miles, replacing 500 independent family farms with one mega-farm.
  • Dorr supports North Carolina's model of factory farm hog production. He wants to "facilitate" the growth of corporate factory farms, even though these operations pushed family farm hog producers out of business and wreak havoc on the environment and rural communities.
  • During a 1999 meeting at Iowa State University, Dorr made comments suggesting that ethnic and religious diversity hinders economic development in rural counties.
  • Dorr collected farm program benefits that he was not eligible for, knowing these transactions were questionablesince then, the U.S. federal government forced Dorr and his family to pay a $17,000 fine for applying to these programs for ineligible funding.

On Friday May 16, 2003, Mr. Dorr testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development. As part of the budget request for FY 2004, he strongly stated that he views his agency as the “venture capitalists” of rural America, not the lender of last resort which has historically been its primary mission.

The undersigned organizations remain concerned about his vision, his current USDA record, and USDA’s failure to respond to pending questions from the Senate Agriculture Committee. These organizations strongly urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold a hearing before voting on his controversial nomination. This hearing is needed to address unanswered questions from prior hearings as well as Dorr’s actions thus far.


American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association
C.A.S.A. del Llano (Communities Assuring a Sustainable Agriculture) (TX)
Community Food Security Coalition
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
Corporate Agribusiness Research Project
Dakota Resource Council (ND)
Dakota Rural Action (SD)
Empire State Family Farm Alliance
Family Farm Defenders (WI)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Minnesota COACT
Minnesota Land Stewardship Project
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
National Family Farm Coalition
Obed Watershed Association (TN)
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Public Citizen
Rural Coalition
United Church of Christ /Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility (TN)
Western Organization of Resource Councils

For more information, or to contact undersigned organizations, call 202-542-5675.

CC: Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee