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In The Loop
Posted at 05:13 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Vilsack v. Vilsack: Playing chicken

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a press conference in Minnesota last year. (Richard Sennott - AP)
When Founding Father Gouverneur Morris wrote the preamble to the Constitution, specifically the phrase to “insure domestic tranquility,” he probably wasn’t thinking of Tom and Christie Vilsack

But there may be a serious political split brewing in the home of Iowa’s former governor — now Secretary of Agriculture Tom — and former first lady — now congressional candidate Christie -- over the agency’s plan to privatize the country’s poultry inspection program.

Tom Vilsack reportedly claimed budget cuts required replacing 800 food safety inspectors with company employees and Agriculture officials say the move won’t have adverse health effects on consumer of the fowl. (Seriously.)

But Christie Vilsack, who’s running against Rep. Steve King (R), saw demonstrators from advocacy group Food & Water Watch and the American Federation of Government Employees in front of her office in Ames, Iowa.

She issued a statement in response saying “ . . .we should not privatize jobs” and that she was concerned about “allowing companies to inspect themselves.” But she didn’t say, for now, whether she specifically opposed the rule. (And she didn’t sink to the fox and henhouse cliche.)

“I won’t, now that I’ve made that statement, I will not ever talk to my husband about it again,” she told the Des Moines Register. “Or, I should say, he will not talk to me, ” she said. “He made it clear that we will not be talking about this again. But he certainly educated me on the department’s position.”

Not quite the War of the Roses, but it’s not over yet.

Meanwhile, substantial national controversy over the rule — even outside the Vilsack residence — has caused the department to extend the public comment period to May 26.

By  |  05:13 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Tags:  Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, privatize, poultry inspection, Christie Vilsack, Steve King, Iowa, Congress, American Federation of Government Employees, Food & Water Watch, Al Kamen, In the Loop, Emily Heil

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