A group of about twenty protesters staged a rally outside Democrat congressional candidate Christie Vilsack’s campaign office in Ames Tuesday. They were protesting a new United States Department of Agriculture plan that would cut back on government inspectors at poultry plants in favor of self regulation by the plant operators.
Trent Berhow is safety inspector who says the new plan also allows for more chickens to be killed per minute. “Under traditional inspection right now, we put our hands on the chicken we look inside the cavity of the chicken. Under the poultry slaughter rule inspectors won’t even be allowed to do that, they’ll just have to stand back and look at those chickens whizzing by,” he says.
Berhow says there is no way that anyone can safely inspect poultry at that speed. And he says his job shouldn’t be privatized. At a press conference later in the day, Christie Vilsack said she agreed with the sentiment, but she also said she didn’t know enough to commit to a position. She promised to talk with Berhow to educate herself on the issue.
Vilsack’s husband Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Ag Secretary, which means he’s behind the implantation of the plan, but Christie Vilsack said that won’t influence her opinion. “My husband makes his decisions independent of mine, and I will make my decisions independent of his, but I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about it,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack is running against Republican Congressman Steve King for the fourth district congressional seat.