The (Very) Quiet Revolution
I would say that not everyone is happy with Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack:
While Vilsack has promoted respectable policies with respect to restraining livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and promoting genetically engineered crops and animal cloning. Equally troubling is Vilsack's support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production, which has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.
The Organic Consumers Association is calling on organic consumers and all concerned citizens to join our call to action and block Vilsack's confirmation as the next Secretary of Agriculture. Please help us reach our goal of 100,000 petition signatures against Vilsack' nomination. Sign today! Your email will be sent to your Senators and the President-Elect's office.
I think Tom Philpott has this right - these issues weren't really included in Obama's message of change, and hopes that there would be anything radically different in ag policy were unfounded.
People in the sustainable-ag world -- including me -- are having a tough time time accepting that Obama has picked an a ethanol-loving, GMO enthusiast as his USDA chief.
But then again, Obama himself is a strong supporter of both GMOs and ethanol, so maybe we shouldn't be too surprised.
That said, if you didn't expect ag policy to be much of a concern for this Administration, Vilsack is actually a fairly decent choice on the margins, though obviously not in the big picture. He supports labeling GMO food and a stricter approval process at the FDA for biotech. His outlook on ethanol sucks, as you might expect from a former Iowa governor, but he does support ending the tariffs on Brazilian sugar cane ethanol and even phasing out corn ethanol subsidies, as well as researching second-generation biofuels that are less resource-intensive. He has spoken of using food to support in Obama's foreign policy message of soft power, to aid those suffering from malnutrition and famine. And he wants to revamp the school nutrition program.
Vilsack has been fairly open and accessible on his beliefs, and while ultimately the status quo will probably maintain, I think there's room for him to listen to progressives and even implement some policies they like.