Links behind the U's Troubled Waters ag relationship angle

Here’s an e-mail sent out to several news outlets that appears to contain the same information as that in the sidebar update of the Twin Cities Daily Planet story on the U’s pulling of the Troubled Waters film.

Update: The information does come from the Daily Planet story.

Is there fire to the smoke in the story? Click and decide for yourself:

Karen Himle is Vice President of University Relations, which is the office that determined the film needed “scientific review.” She is married to John Himle, president of Himle Horner, a public relations firm that represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council. The Council is a strong proponent of ethanol and industrial farming, both of which are critiqued in the film. John Himle was also president of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council from 1978 to 1982 and his organization currently serves as a “member” of the Council.

The University’s “conflict of interest” policy was called into question last year by the Minnesota Daily, which also cited Karen Himle’s summary of her outside sources of income as including Himle Horner and Nebraska farmland crops.

While Himle Horner’s client records are not public (something that has drawn the ire of some in the community as former co-owner Tom Horner is running for governor), Himle Horner was still representing the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council as recently as this summer.

I believe this was an important issue to note since it could present a serious conflict of interest and raises further questions about whether Big Ag is mounting pressure on the U to halt the film’s release for “scientific review.”

Himle Horner has also been in the news for coordinating publicity for the gigantic Big Ag bash at the 2008 GOP convention and, more recently, as co-founder Tom Horner launched an Independence Party candidacy for Minnesota governor and got favorable numbers from a poll conducted by a firm that Himle Horner also uses.