Jim Riddle, a former chair of the National Organic Standards Board who is now organic outreach coordinator at the University of Minnesota, tells me he is actively seeking a position at the USDA.
If he is named as organic adviser to the secretary, or head of the Agricultural Marketing Service, this would be a big gain for sustainability. Riddle worked tirelessly for years on the NOSB, trying to keep organic food truly organic. And he did that while working in partnership with the USDA -- not an easy feat. He has trained organic inspectors since the late 1980s and walks the talk.
"My wife, Joyce, and I have lived off the grid since 1984, producing all of our power from the sun, wind, and woods, living in our owner-built, energy-efficient earth-sheltered home. We raise a big garden and put up much of our food. For us, sustainability and green living are not just slogans – they are a way of life," he says.
I already noted that Kathleen Merrigan of Tufts is angling for a major post in the department. If Obama is serious about change -- in the food and agricultural sector -- these are the type of appointments his team should make, mirroring the encouraging news of Nobel Laureate Steven Chu to head the department of energy.
As for agriculture secretary, Nicholas Kristof put it well in the NY Times -- it's time for Obama to shift the focus of the department away from agribusiness interests and put it squarely on food.
He also linked to a petition advocating several names to head the department -- which I previously signed. The Ethicurean blog also has a good post summing up the leading candidates, the gist of which is that no front-runner has emerged.
- Samuel Fromartz