dennis wolffWolff at the Dickinson College farm in Pennsylvania.Here’s a little rumor-mongering for fun, if not profit. Yes, as Tom Philpott reported, Dennis Wolff is for sure heading the list of candidates for the top food safety post at the USDA. But that’s not the fun part. The fun part involves the reason Dennis Wolff is heading the list of candidates for the top food safety post at the USDA.

It’s long been known that Wolff’s main backer for a USDA post has been his current boss, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Many folks in the food policy world have wondered why Rendell so enthusiastically backs a guy who caused him such embarrassment — referring of course to Wolff’s failed attempt to ban “rBST-free” labels on milk.

Well, according to an impeccable source, the real motivation is right out of an episode of The Office. Rendell wants nothing more than to be rid of Wolff. He’s dearly hoping that Vilsack swoops in and gets Wolff the heck out of Harrisburg. That’s right. Wolff screwed up so badly in the state capitol, there’s no place for him to go but up — to USDA HQ.

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But instead of dumping him in some meaningless job, the rocket scientists at USDA, cheered on by Big Ag, decided that Wolff — despite no real background in the subject — should be in charge of one of the nation’s main food safety operations. Insiders have also observed the utter absence of a high-profile Pennsylvanian among top administration officials. With the White House already thinking about 2012, this oversight has team Obama searching for someone, anyone, from “purple” PA to name to a senior post.

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The logic, at least to them, is inescapable, though it does suggest that their commitment to reform is, um, a bit lacking. But honestly, this is one Pennsylvania export we probably should keep to ourselves. As a Philly resident, I’m willing to bite the bullet and leave Dennis here. Maybe then the top food safety job would go to a committed, experienced, consumer-minded reformer and not some hack state Ag Sec cast-off. If only hope were a plan.

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