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Conservatives Find Political Red Meat in USDA Diet Guidelines

From the IRS to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Federal Communications Commission, federal agencies are under more scrutiny from congressional Republicans concerned about regulatory overreach than at any time in Barack Obama's presidency.  

Add the Department of Agriculture to the list. A group of 71 GOP House members has jumped into a growing controversy over proposed new dietary guidelines for Americans released earlier this year by a USDA advisory committee.  

Republicans voiced concerns about the panel, known as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, in a March 31 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, calling the committee's suggestions "conflicting."  

UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Huelskamp and other Republicans are weighing in on new dietary guidelines calling for Americans to eat less meat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

"We are disappointed with reports from observers that the approach of the 2015 DGAC suggests studies were either selected or excluded to support pre-determined conclusions," the lawmakers wrote. "For example, the DGAC's recommendation on lean red meat directly contradicts years of peer reviewed scientific research on the benefits of lean red meat as a high quality source of protein in an healthy diet."  

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the letter's co-signers, took to Twitter Wednesday to call the guidelines an attack on his meat-producing state.

In its report , the DGAC calls for emphasizing an American diet less dependent on meat — in part because of meat production's impact on the environment.  

Environmental groups have cheered the proposal, which has not been officially adopted by the USDA. But cattle producers and lawmakers from agribusiness states are pushing back, criticizing the guidelines as the latest attempt by the administration to use federal agencies to push the president's political agenda.  

Other Republicans signing on to the letter include Missouri's Vicky Hartzler, Indiana's Jackie Walorski and Texas' K. Michael Conaway.  

The House letter follows a similar letter signed by 30 senators, mostly Republicans, sent earlier in March.  

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