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Family farmers denounce Bush's appointment of Thomas Dorr

(Aug. 8, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The following is a press release by the National Family Farm Coalition.

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 7, 2002 The National Family Farm Coalition strongly condemned President Bush's recess appointment of Thomas Dorr to the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development in the USDA, and urged Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to uphold his pledge to obtain USDA documents on Dorr's farming operations.

"We are outraged that President Bush appointed Thomas Dorr through this sneaky back door method, ignoring sixteen months of widespread grassroots opposition," said George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and leader of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. "The President obviously knew that Dorr's record, statements and character would not stand up to a vote of the full Senate, just as it failed to win Senate Agriculture Committee approval last week."

"We count on Senator Harkin to live up to his promise to obtain documents that the USDA withheld while this nomination was under consideration," said Bill Christison, Missouri farmer and President of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and the National Family Farm Coalition. "Now more than ever it is important to expose the unsuitability of this man for a high level job."

More than 165 grassroots groups have publicly opposed the Thomas Dorr nomination. The Senate Agriculture committee gave Dorr a vote of no confidence last week when it did not recommend the nomination.

"This appointment will infuriate people all over the countryside," said Leon Crump, a South Carolina family farmer with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. "President Bush and Secretary Venemen have proven with this appointment that they stand opposed to an economically and ecologically sustainable family farm system of agriculture, diverse rural communities, and fair access to rural development programs."

Opposition to Thomas Dorr is based on his support of corporate-controlled agriculture, opposition to sustainable agriculture and his view that ethnic diversity is an impediment to economic development. In a letter to Harkin read during his nomination hearing, Dorr revealed his disdain for rural residents who utilize government programs, the very people he will serve as Undersecretary for Rural Development.

In addition, Thomas Dorr admitted he structured his farming operations to "quite frankly avoid minimum payment limitations." Dorr and Dorr family trusts were forced to repay $34,000 for two separate violations. Harkin revealed last Thursday that two Dorr family trusts received $65,000 in farm program payments from 1988 through 1993 and could fall under the same circumstances. However, the USDA continues to withhold further Dorr farming operation records from the public and Senate.

"We will continue to pursue the lawsuit against the USDA to force the release of all Dorr operation farming documents," said Dena Hoff, Montana farmer and North Plains Resource Council member. "Then everyone will know that Dorr is not qualified to represent family farmers or serve in public office."