ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Obama's USDA Secretary "Maybe Won't Suck?"

Obama's pick of former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary set off a round of criticism in the blogusphere, because many of us were hoping that a more progressive leader would have a shot. It wasn't to be. 

Unlike his visionary pick of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Obama tapped a centrist with a long cozy relationship with Monsanto -- the GMO king -- a soft touch on CAFOs (factory animal farms) and a taste for corn ethanol. These might be called the three deadly sins of sustainable agriculture.

The indefatigable Kerry Truman over at Huffington Post has a fine round up of all the criticism, but then does one better: she actually contacted someone who worked with Vilsack for years, Denise O'Brien, the organic farmer who ran for Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture in 2006. O'Brien's comments are illuminating, because she actually tried to shift the status quo in the heart of corn country. She found Vilsack listened, and even offered his support when she had a shot at state office. Sadly, she lost.

I won't summarize her sentiments -- just click on over on the link. The upshot?  Maybe the dial shifts a bit with Vilsack. But for it to go further, advocates of a very different vision of food and farming will have to keep up their work. Recall, after two decades of pushing for reform, it's still the early innings on the national stage.