Change We Can Believe In, or A Second Helping of the Same-Old? | Civil Eats

Change We Can Believe In, or A Second Helping of the Same-Old?

As the stage is being set for 44 to take the reigns on Tuesday in the most anticipated inauguration maybe ever, last minute appointments are still being made.  Unfortunately for those of us who strive for a better food system, not all of of those being considered want to help our cause.

Tom Vilsack may have initially disappointed, but I feel that he is someone that at least we in the sustainable community can work with (especially considering Denise O’Brien’s encouraging words about him).  Needless to say, though, there are undersecretaries who heavily influence policy decisions, and by extension what is being eaten in the U.S — and the news ain’t good.

The word going around is that up for consideration for a USDA position is Joy Philippi, the former president of the National Pork Producers Council and a champion of the pork lobby (read: will protect CAFOs at all costs, as the operator of a hog confinement operation herself). Remember when Hillary Clinton got into a bungle when she named her the Co-Chair for Rural Americans?  Well I naively thought Obama was different.

Also in the running is Dennis Wolff, the former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, who sided with Monsanto in fighting to keep information about artificial growth hormones (rBGH) off milk labels. This is bad news indeed.

I hate to put a damper on your inaugural enthusiasm, but the time to act is now if we hope to at least have someone with an interest in building a better food system at the table.  So what can you do about it?  Well, you might have already signed the Food Democracy Now! petition, along with over 74,000 others, which gives its “Sustainable Dozen,” a group of well-qualified change-agents who could do good by our soil and get us on the track to a better food system.  Now it is time to get everyone you know to sign it.  Everyone eats, and as such, everyone has a stake in the policy being made at the top — and perhaps all they need is a little nudge. 

Besides signing the petition, you can write your House Reps (Here are the Reps on the House Agriculture Committee) and Senators (Here is the website for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry), or even do as Bonnie Powell at Ethicurian suggests, and email Obama’s Agriculture transition team directly.

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There is no time to lose, so get crackin’ — and if you are headed to the inauguration, for goodness sake Eat Well, and use the tool Eat Well Everywhere to map your trip and find delicious roadside eats instead of corn-laden deep-fried industrial ag meats.  I’ll toast to that!

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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  1. Where is this rumor coming from? Ethicurean published it as well, but it doesn't seem like any news organization has this info...
  2. Thanks for mentioning the Eat Well Guide on Civil Eats. When you have a minute, check out our new and improved site where you can sign up to stay updated on local, healthy food in your area, search for local events, or download widgets for your blog ( Let us know what you think and please suggest listings you don’t see in the Guide so we can add them.

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