New USDA food safety undersecretary named

Texas Tech professor Dr. Mindy Brashears offers expertise in antimicrobial resistance and pre-harvest feed additives to protect against E.coli and salmonella.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

May 4, 2018

3 Min Read
New USDA food safety undersecretary named
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President Donald Trump named Dr. Mindy Brashears to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for food safety. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the nomination.

“Food safety is at the core of USDA’s mission, because it directly affects the health and well-being of millions of Americans every day. President Trump has made an excellent choice in Dr. Mindy Brashears, and I am excited to have her join the team,” Perdue said. “Dr. Brashears has spent decades finding ways to improve food safety standards through innovation, invention and leadership on research missions across the globe. I look forward to her bringing that wealth of expertise and track record of results here to USDA.”

Brashears is a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. Brashears’ research program focuses on improving food safety standards to make an impact on public health. In a statement, USDA noted that her highly acclaimed work evaluates interventions in pre-harvest and post-harvest environments and on the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance in animal feeding systems. These efforts have resulted in commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce Escherichia coli and salmonella in cattle.

She also leads international research teams to Mexico, Central America and South America to improve food safety and security and to set up sustainable agriculture systems in impoverished areas. Brashears is past-chair of the National Alliance for Food Safety & Security and of the USDA multi-state research group.

National Turkey Federation president Joel Brandenberger welcomed the nomination and said Brashears was an excellent choice. 

"Her background and training will serve the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) well as it continues to enhance the safety of the food supply and further strengthen its public health mission," Brandenberger said. "NTF looks forward to working with Dr. Brashears to maintain consumer confidence in the food supply through the ongoing evolution of FSIS and the implementation of new science-based food safety technologies."

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, also had positive things to say about Brashears' appointment. “Consumers deserve to have confidence that their food is safe and that sound science is used to ensure they have access to the most wholesome products. That is why President Trump’s selection of Dr. Mindy Brashears as Under Secretary for Food Safety is welcome news to America’s farmers and ranchers. Her extensive and innovative track record of improving food safety standards is an excellent fit at USDA, where food safety remains a core part of the agency’s mission, and always a priority for farmers and ranchers,” Duvall said. 

Perdue noted that USDA continues to wait for Senate confirmation for additional key roles at USDA.

Reorganization efforts at AMS

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced Friday an organizational change to support Perdue’s goal to make USDA the most effective, most efficient and best-managed department in the federal government. The internal changes will not affect the quality of services to the agriculture sector but will improve opportunities for the cross-utilization of staff and other resources.

Effective today, the administration of the Seed Regulatory & Testing Division (SRTD) will shift from the Livestock, Poultry & Seed Program to the Science & Technology Program (S&T). The Livestock, Poultry & Seed Program will become the Livestock & Poultry Program, focusing on the livestock, poultry and related industries to provide the best possible service to customers of these marketing programs.

Under S&T’s administration, SRTD will continue to regulate and provide testing services for agricultural and vegetable seeds to ensure the efficient, orderly marketing of seeds and to assist in the development of new or expanding markets. The organizational change will increase efficiencies as the SRTD is already co-located with S&T’s National Science Laboratories in Gastonia, N.C. The realignment enables AMS to provide an integrated vision and leadership to address regulatory issues important to the seed industry.

This organizational change ensures that AMS remains customer focused and will open up tremendous opportunities for cost sharing and other shared measures in administrative, information technology and financial management functions.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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