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FROM: INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN OF NEBRASKA, Box 241, Hyannis, NE 69350 Phone: 308-282-2826

Media Contact: Mary Mulligan (402) 967-3464; Email:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 11, 2006


Hyannis, NE - The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) today joined a growing number of cattle organizations across the nation in urging Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, to reconsider his nomination of Chandler Keys to replace Bill Hawks as undersecretary for Agricultural Marketing & Regulatory programs.

ICON spokesman Jim Hanna said, "Mr. Keys represents a growing number of appointees at USDA who have strong ties to agri-business and the organizations that represent them. "

Keys is a career Washington DC lobbyist, having spent several years with the NCBA, American Meat Institute and packer giant, Swift and Co.

According to Hanna, "Keys has been a long time advocate of vertical integration and concentration in agricultural production and those ideas run counter to everything ICON is about. We need to find people to serve in these important positions who are interested more in the livelihoods of folks who are involved in production agriculture and are less concerned about the bottom lines of multi-national corporations. The perception continues that top level positions within the Department are "for sale" to those with the most political influence."

A paper titled "USDA INC: How Agribusiness Has Hijacked Regulatory Policy at USDA", released in 2004 by the Agri-Business Accountability Initiative, found that USDA had become a virtual nest for industry-related personnel.

"It's a commonly-accepted fact amongst cattle producers that USDA is overrun with representatives from the meatpacking, food processing and retail sectors," Hanna said. "Putting former lobbyists from these sectors into policy or regulatory jobs sets the stage for serious conflicts of interest by creating situations where they can advance their agendas internally.

ICON will oppose this nomination, and will ask our congressional delegation to oppose Mr. Keys during the confirmation process as well. "Let's curtail the "industry" influence within USDA and search for a candidate with credibility and integrity and the willingness to further the cause of US agriculture and its grassroots producers," Hanna added.

For more information on R-CALF USA or ICON, visit or or call (308) 282-2826.