Agricultural Secretary Bob Bergland, who once vowed to fire the cooks in his department's cafeteria because he thinks the food is terrible, is in a stew with the General Services Administration.

The agency, which handles housekeeping chores for the federal bureaucracy, has renewed a contract with the cafeteria operator without consulting Bergland.

"We still pay the bills. That means we might not pay them at all if the food doesn't improve," Bergland said yesterday.

"But we got their attention, and I think there has been some improvement. I know we're going to get this thing settled one way or another."

Bergland said he understood that the contract was renewed for one year. What upsets him is that it was renewed without his knowledge - despite his loud and clear statements on what he thought of the cafeteria's food.

The USDA cafeteria, as in many other federal agencies, is operated by Government Services, Inc., a private firm. Bergland wants USDA to prepare its own meals, as it did before the contractor took over.

Bergland is a regular customer in the eatery, going through the chow line early in the morning for coffee and doughnuts and often later for lunch or a coffee break.