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Lay of the Land

Protecting Alaska's Tongass | 10 Reasons to Protect our National Forests | W Watch | Clean Air Act? | Jack Morrow Hills | Using Up the Planet | Bold Strokes | Children Pay Price for Pollution | Fuel Economy | Updates

W Watch: Keeping Tabs on George W. Bush

Undersecretary of Agribusiness

By Reed McManus

In this post-Enron era, you’d think George W. Bush would look beyond corporate ranks when filling administration posts. But in July he designated businessman Thomas Dorr as undersecretary for rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bypassing Senate scrutiny with a "recess appointment." Dorr’s nomination had stalled in the upper house because of opposition from rural and environmental groups, who cited a 1998 New York Times article in which Dorr expressed support for large, high-tech farms that would sprawl over hundreds of thousands of acres. In his new position, Dorr metes out $14 billion annually in loans, grants, and technical assistance to rural areas, and oversees an $80 billion portfolio of existing loans. The new undersecretary does have previous experience with USDA grants: Dorr was forced to repay $34,000 to the USDA after investigators discovered he had improperly collected federal agriculture subsidies as CEO of Pine Grove Farm, an agribusiness holding company in Iowa.

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