Sunday, December 7, 2008

Help choose our new Secretary of Agriculture

President-elect Obama is in the process of naming his Cabinet members, and is currently considering Rep. Collin Peterson (D)-Minn., Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, who was quoted last year as saying organic consumers are "dumb."

I'm making a concerted effort to post more about food-related issues (that is one of the main purposes of my blog, after all), and several of you have let me know that you depend on me to keep you informed about food and food sustainability news. This is potentially the most important opportunity we all have to influence food policy on a national level.

The Secretary of Agriculture appointment will be Obama's first indication about his planned direction for food production in the United States. Let him know that the "business as usual" approach to farm subsidies and monoculture is unacceptable. If you care about supporting sustainable and local food production on a national policy level, please take a few minutes to send an email to Obama's transition team and let them know what (or who) you'd like to see in a new Secretary of Agriculture. The Obama Transition Team has set up an innovative website to facilitate public input for policy initiatives in the new Obama Administration. You can contact them at

Here's some more information about this issue, along with suggestions for some better alternatives to Congressman Peterson:

The Secretary of Agriculture is one of the most powerful and most overlooked positions in the cabinet. The office oversees the safety of the U.S. food supply, domestic farming policies, food stamp programs, and the nation's 297,000 square miles of forest. Obama was initially considering the pro-biotech Iowa governor Tom Vilsack for the position, but thousands of organic consumers raised their voices in response to an Organic Consumers' Association alert that apparently stopped that plan in its tracks (Learn more).

According to press reports, Obama is now considering Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to head the USDA. Peterson, like Vilsack, is a strong biotech supporter, head of the House Agriculture Committee, and a man who categorized organic consumers as "dumb" last year. Organic Bytes readers sent Peterson several thousand irate letters in response to his putdown of organic food and farming. You can read some of these letters

Last week OCA delivered a petition with 10,000 signatures to Obama's Transition Team in Washington, asking him to take a strong stand in support of organic food and farming. We also posted on our website a list of other progressive candidates for high-level USDA positions, including Jim Riddle, a national organic farmer leader, Texas populist Jim Hightower, Tom Buis from the National Farmers Union, and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. You can read the profiles of some of these possible USDA appointees

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