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Tom Vilsack named Secretary of Agriculture


Shalmanese
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President-Elect Obama has just named Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. There isn't too much information that I can find out about this guy so far but it looks like he's very strongly in favor of environmental measures but, being from Iowa, is also heavily involved in Big Agriculture and will probably not be pushing for a farm bill with a reduction of subsidies to the Corn industry.

It looks like Michael Pollan was never even in the running. What does everyone think of the new Obama pick?

PS: I am a guy.

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I would much rather have Michael Pollan, I just finished reading his new book coincidently.

I would also believe the Kenneth F. Kiple has an amazing knowledge of food and the production of it as well.

It may be presumptuous of me but together I think Pollan and Kiple could have some amazing conceptual ideas on American food and agriculture.

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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There's an interesting op-ed piece on this very subject HERE. I'll be cautiously optimistic, but I completely agree that Pollan and/or Kiple would have been far better choices. Unfortunately, they aren't "politicians" so they likely weren't even considered. Vilsack is a former governor of a big farming state, so he's more "qualified" for the post.

I'll take a smart writer or academic anyday over a politico. Pollan or Kiple could have been a truly revolutionary choice. That would be change I could really believe in. :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I like Michael Pollan and I agree with much of what he says. But I have no sense that he's capable -- let alone interested -- in running a major division of the executive branch. Most writers I know are fully occupied (if not overwhelmed) with managing their own schedules; the last thing we, or American agriculture, needs is someone like me running that show. It requires not just vision but managerial and political expertise. I'd venture to say that most writers hanging around eG Forums would agree -- about my general premise, as well as me in particular.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I'll take a smart writer or academic anyday over a politico.  Pollan or Kiple could have been a truly revolutionary choice.  That would be change I could really believe in.  :smile:

I get where you're coming from, but a writer or academic may not be equipped to have a cabinet post, or indeed want one. Perhaps they could consult.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I'll be cautiously optimistic...

I wish I could be cautiously optimistic...

I am going to try and see how things go. As an Obama supporter, I have been riding the hopeful wave of "life as we know it CAN change!" In addition to being an avid "foodie" who spends the most delightful hours of my life preparing food in my kitchen for friends and family, I am also an avid gardener. Since I retired, I have had the time to become more educated about our food and where it comes from. I have read the Pollan books and watched "King Corn." Click here! I am concerned about sustainability and the practices that are so common in our industrialized agricultural systems. I feel a great concern about peak oil and our dependence upon fossil fuels. So, with bated breath, I have watched to see what message would be sent with Obama's pick for Secretary of Agriculture. I signed the petition sent to the transition team and had the list of the "sustainable dozen" Click here! pinned to my bulletin board.

My reaction to the pick...I am deflated. I am fearful that it will be business as usual with our major agro-business corporations and lobbyists, wielding the power. I guess time will tell...

Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.

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I'll take a smart writer or academic anyday over a politico.  Pollan or Kiple could have been a truly revolutionary choice.  That would be change I could really believe in.  :smile:

I get where you're coming from, but a writer or academic may not be equipped to have a cabinet post, or indeed want one. Perhaps they could consult.

OK - perhaps I was being a bit glib (where's Tom Cruise when you need him) in my endorsement, but there might have been other politically savvy choices that aren't in cahoots with Monsanto or beholden to Big Agribusiness.

And Dave, I think you'd be a breath of fresh air on Capitol Hill! They wouldn't know what to do. While the lobbyists and evil doers were trying to figure out whether to shit or wind their watch, you could get the secret eGullet agendas passed. :raz:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Mostly I am disappointed that nothing really seems to have changed. Vilsack may be fine, though I am concerned that he has too much of an allegiance to agribusiness. Time will tell.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Michael Pollan will be Secretary of Agriculture just as soon as Mario Batali gets the Surgeon General position.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Damn. I had Pollan at Ag, Batali as SG, and Bourdain as Secretary of State: all losers. I'll bet that pretty soon I'll learn that Eric Schlosser isn't running the Department of Labor, and then I'm going to be out of the office pool.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've received multiple requests from a regional growers list serve to write to my congress persons encouraging them to stop Vilsack's confirmation. I haven't had time to do adequate research but the concern seems to be further erosion of organics standards that will enable large agri businesses to still be certified and market their wares to (what was burgeoning but now, in the current economy, appears to be waning) conscientious consumers.

I hope to read-up on this over the weekend. If anyone has what they believe to be a reliable source of objective information to recommend I would appreciate suggestions.

Batali is ALL ABOUT the so-called Mediterranean diet. If he comes up for confirmation as Surgeon General, I'll throw all of my weight behind him :laugh:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Gordon Ramsey - Secretary of State, that'll get foreign affairs trembling

Dave, I must disagree with you. I hate to, but I must. I think a writer with a little bit of courage, maybe a touch of charisma and some strong willpower/confidence could be that absolute best thing for politics. I even envision a world in which their are no "elected politicians" just elected professors of study and determine courses of action in their own fields. Instead of having some politician decide what to do with agriculture and food, have the entire agricultural academic community decide in their own small section of government, same goes for all fields. Even if the professor is a bad politician, we would still vote for a good one because hes teaching us or our children in college.

Oh well, thats my politic dream.

I still believe in backing the person with the highest amount of knowledge, give him/her a bulldog of an assistant to break doors down for their knowledge to get through.

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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I have no opinion on the guy because I know virtually nothing about him. Food has become extremely politicized, and I think there's a possibility the function of that part of government could change.

Remember that this president-elect has retained his list of "grassroots" contacts, and for those who have a problem with the guy... or any other food-related issues... you may want to consider trying to bring some pressure to bear through those connections.

All in all, scary as it is, I see this as a fascinating time of life and I'm enjoying my ringside seat.

We'll see if I'm still this fascinated, this time next year. :laugh:

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So where's the "change we can believe in"? But then I'm not terribly surprised either. Changes are only going to happen from the ground up, as is happening in concerned communities all over the country. As usual the government will be late to the party by jumping on the bandwagon after the fact.

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For what it is worth, I received this from a colleague in the cheese industry:

According to the news, President Elect Obama has chosen former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. Vilsack is not a friend to family agriculture, nor to sustainable agriculture, and the choice represents at its core business as usual in Washington. Food policy, which by its nature is mostly farm policy, is at the core of every major challenge we face today from environmental degredation to energy to public health.

We must help save the new President from this horrible decision, because until we face the spectre of agribusiness, we will never be able to solve global warming, public health, and a dependence on fossil fuels. As a city guy, I suspect Obama had to rely on others, and they never took the time to speak to the sustainable, family farm and organic agricultural communities, only to the big boys.

Corn and Soy based mono-cropping, of which, Vilsack is a staunch defender is the one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases, some say as much as 30% if you include the fuel needed to deliver thousands of miles away. It is a huge consumer of petroleum based energy. Vilsack is a huge supporter of Corn based ethanol, in fact, the "spin" is that he supports alternative "fuels," by which he means corn based ethanol, coming from Iowa where hundreds of family farms are lost each year to the consolidation of the states farmland into gmo corn production. Corn based ethanol production, if you don't know, is unsustainable as it needs more energy to make it than it produces. Sugar based ethanol, like in Brazil, is a much better. "Corn gas" production benefits few farm families, mostly very rich farmers who do not live on their farms, and collect huge subsidies. The UN and most world food experts blame the recent mania for corn gas for increasing the starvation of people worldwide by driving up prices beyond what they can afford. Corn based agriculture benefits mostly the companies who process the corn into "food ingredients" that are at the core of our national epidemic in adult onset diabetes and other dietary diseases, (additives like citric acid and high fructose corn syrup drive the low price of fast food, pushing americans by government policies into high calorie, low nutrition foods, leading to obesity and heart disease, swamping the health care system and driving up costs.)

Vilsack is a strong ally of Monsanto. Years ago, I spoke at a small natural food chain in Portland Oregon in support of the small artisan cheesemakers of California for the CMAB. A question came up about Rgbh, the hormone injected into cows to increase milk production made by Monsanto. I answered fairly, saying that the issue for those who were passionately against its use was not so much related to health, as to quality of life for the animals, since it greatly shortens their usable life span and makes them prone to mastitis, and infection of the teats. I did not discuss the quality of milk though the cheesemakers I have worked with who have used this milk have told me it does not react the same as normal milk in spite of what the Department of Ag was paid to say.

Two weeks later the CMAB got a letter telling them to stop me from making comments on rGBH or they would sue. Good heavens, was Monsanto paying spies dressed like hippies to work in Natural Food stores and report any negative comments about their products. I have know way of knowing, but how else would they know about my rather balanced comments given to a group of people who all had multiple earrings, except me?

And now, after fighting for years for a more sane, sustainable Ag policy that balances the needs to rebuild small family farms, and diverse agriculture, with big AG, many of us in the food community are crushed by this decision.

If you agree with me, I am personally asking you to take a minute of your time and write the Presidents transition team expressing dissapproval of the Vilsack choice at; http://www.fooddemocracynow.org .

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