Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Overlooked News: Vilsack Will NOT Be Agriculture Secretary

In a small piece of overlooked news, I’m happy to report that Tom Vilsack will not be named Secretary of Agriculture:

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack today said that he won’t be the next agriculture secretary, ending speculation that an Iowan would snag the post important to a large swath of the state’s economy.

In an e-mail, Vilsack said he had never been contacted by aides to President-elect Barack Obama about that position or any other.

Why do I see this as good news? No disrespect to Gov. Vilsack, who I’m sure is a capable guy, but his views are too inexorably tied to his state and its central role in our food system. Indeed, he’s been one of the earliest and biggest pushers of corn-based ethanol as a solution to our energy crisis.

Now, to be fair, this is not Obama’s strongest issue as he too hails from a midwest, corn-producing state.

But, in an ideal world, the agriculture secretary will be someone who will start to wean us off this corn-based, centrally-managed food system (which, by the way, is highly vulnerable to disruption and attack) and instead move us to a more regional system.

Yes, you can tell I’m a fan of Michael Pollan of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” fame, and he’s certainly written a great deal on the subject of food policy, almost all of which I agree with. Take his October, NY Times Op-ed in which he writes an open-letter to the next President as an example:

Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them.

Indeed – food policy is directly connected to national security, global warming, health care, and so many other crucial policies – it’s the glue that connects all of them. So, while it’s a long-shot we’ll get a truly revolutionary Secretary of Agriculture, what we know so far is that we’re not going to get one who definitely isn’t.

P.S. strongly recommend reading Pollan’s entire op-ed, if not his books. His work is terrific and highly convincing.


November 24, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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