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Texas Official Gets USDA Post

March 22, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Democratic agricultural economist and a Texas state official were nominated by President Bush on Thursday to oversee farm and nutrition programs at the Agriculture Department.

The economist, J.B. Penn, is senior vice president of the Sparks Companies Inc., a Memphis, Tenn.-based firm that analyzes commodity markets and government policy for food and agriculture interests.

Penn was nominated as undersecretary of farm and foreign agricultural services because of his knowledge of agriculture and trade, said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. Penn served as a senior economist at USDA during the Carter administration and is co-author of a commonly used university text book on food and agriculture policy.

``He is the best prepared person in the country for that position, Republican or Democrat. He knows the numbers and the programs, and he has good relations with the Congress,″ said John Schnittker Sr., who held a similar position at USDA in the Johnson administration and is now an agribusiness consultant.

Eric Bost, chief executive of the Texas Department of Human Services since 1997, was nominated as undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, the post responsible for administering food stamps and overseeing the national school lunch program.

The Texas agency manages the state’s welfare programs and regulates nursing homes.

Also, Thomas Dorr, an Iowa farmer, was nominated as undersecretary for rural development.

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