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Grassley Praises Reversal of ‘Ham-Handed’ Prison Pork Policy

Grassley serves iced tea in the pork tent at the 2014 Iowa State fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Grassley serves iced tea in the pork tent at the 2014 Iowa State fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

What happens when a farmer from Iowa is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee? Pork stays on the menu at federal prison cafeterias.  

In a letter sent Thursday to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Chairman Charles E. Grassley had questioned a change in policy that removed pork products from the facilities.  

By Friday, the plan was reversed.  

“The decision by the Bureau of Prisons to completely remove pork from its menus was ham-handed at best. I appreciate the quick decision after my letter to the bureau to keep pork products on prison menus,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “That’s good news for the American economy.”  

The fact that Grassley’s a family farmer by trade rather than a lawyer became an issue in the 2014 Iowa Senate race after then-Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, made a quip about the prospect of Grassley chairing the Judiciary panel in a GOP-led Senate.  

Grassley’s letter asked BOP Director Charles E. Samuels Jr. about the decision to remove pork, which was identified as the “lowest-rated food” offered up from prison kitchens.  

“The Bureau of Prisons’ spokesman indicated that pork was expensive to provide. Please provide any economic evaluations the Bureau of Prisons has relied on that detail the cost of pork as compared to beef, chicken, and non-meat products such as tofu and soy products,” Grassley wrote in his letter, before citing statistics about U.S. pork production.  

“The pork industry is responsible for 547,800 jobs, which creates $22.3 billion in personal incomes and contributes $39 billion to the gross domestic product. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of pork, and the third largest producer of pork,” Grassley wrote. “This unprecedented decision to remove pork from all federal prisons will have consequences on the livelihoods of American citizens who work in the pork industry.”  

In his update Friday, Grassley made clear that he still wanted BOP to address his questions about the original policy change, despite the reversal: “But, there are still questions about how the original determination was made and the cost of conducting the surveys. None of that’s been answered, and it ought to be. I look forward to receiving a response to my letter.”

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