Today President-elect Obama announced that former Iowa governer Tom Vilsack, who has a history of dealings in favor of agri-business, will be his Secretary of Agriculture. This is a disappointment for many grassroots organizers and food policy activists, who had hope that the President-elect and his team would take a leaf from the petition, signed by over 55,000 individuals, which suggested sustainable and qualified choices for the position and represented a true change for the way the government views food production in our nation. It is clear that while our new president will bring much needed change to how we do business in other realms in Washington, that food has not yet become a part of that equation.
For some background on Vilsack, Tom Philpott gives a sense of his legislative history on food-related issues at Grist. It is clear from what President-elect Obama said today, that he intends to further push biofuels and even biotech:
“To lead a Department of Agriculture that helps unlock the potential of a 21st century agricultural economy, I can think of no one better than Tom Vilsack. As Governor of one of our most abundant farm states, he led with vision, promoting biotech to strengthen our farmers and fostering an agricultural economy of the future that not only grows the food we eat, but the energy we use. Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home. That is the kind of leader I want in my cabinet.”
I encourage those of you who, like me, are fighting for a better food system not to be discouraged. It is our job to keep pushing and protesting until Washington understands how serious the issues surrounding our methods of food production in this country are. I take inspiration from the workers at the Chicago factory that was shut down earlier this month, and by Obama’s encouragement of their protest. We must insist that we be heard, and continue to ride the wave of hope, because we know that we have an incoming President who is at last receptive.