To understand the Rubashkin scandal, it is helpful to see how the USDA enforces regulations in other areas of the meat industry. The Senate held hearings last week on the USDA's enforcement of GIPSA, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration, regulations. GIPSA is in large part meant to protect small and mid-sized ranchers from predatory pricing inflicted by ag behemoths like Tyson and Archer Daniels Midland.
So, how well did the Bush Administration enforce GIPSA? According to the USDA's Inspector General, not at all:
The Agriculture Department has decided not to take action against a former agency official who blocked investigations into predatory pricing in the nation's $120 billion livestock trade.
Gross mismanagement, not criminal conduct, by JoAnn Waterfield is to blame for several years of obstruction, department Inspector General Phyllis Fong told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday.
"I'm not sure what further action could be taken," said Fong, who released an audit on the problems in January. "What we found I guess we would best characterize as tremendous mismanagement."
There was "no indication of criminal conduct," Fong added.
So, how long did the USDA allow agribusiness to crush small ranchers? Well, lookie here:
The latest audit said Waterfield stopped complaints from being filed or prosecuted. She pressured employees to create an appearance of strong enforcement by logging day-to-day activity -- sending letters or making phone calls -- as investigations, according to the audit.
Waterfield, who quit abruptly before the audit was released, did not return a call from The Associated Press. She spent about 14 years at the Agriculture Department, the last five as deputy administrator for the Packers and Stockyards Program, part of GIPSA.
That program oversees a $120 billion industry and is supposed to investigate practices that inhibit competition, unfairness and deception in the livestock, meatpacking and poultry trade.
So Waterfield's term of incompetence matches exactly with George W. Bush's. And will Waterfield be prosecuted? Of course not – not in a Bush Administration. And what about former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman? Did she know what was taking place?
Lawmakers asked if Waterfield's superiors knew about the obstruction. The inspector general said they did not. "We have no evidence there was tremendous involvement of the ranks above her in any kind of sense," Fong said.
In other words, five full years without a prosecution in an industry filled with abuse, and no one noticed. The best one can say about this is that Veneman was asleep at the switch – just like her boss.
But I believe one can say more. Senior-level USDA officials – including, according to at least one report, Veneman herself – created the situation that allowed throat-ripping at Rubashkin, even though it violated Humane Slaughter law. And, again, follow the money. Just as agribusiness contributes large amounts of money to political causes, so does the Rubashkin-Balkany family. Further, Agudath Israel and most of the rabbis involved with kosher supervision at Rubashkin are closely tied to the Republican party. Indeed, I believe some of these rabbis were invited to a White House event while the Rubashkin USDA investigation was open – something that could very well have influenced the investigation's outcome.
When one looks at the big picture, it is easy to see why Rubashkin was not prosecuted – even though investigators amassed reams of evidence against them, and PETA caught the dismembering on videotape.
But all does not rest on Bush and his cronies. Crimes were committed here, just as crimes were committed in Allentown and New York. Vehamayvin yavin.