Vilsack — change we can believe in?

December 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm Leave a comment

So much for a Secretary of Sustainable Agricuture.  While new  Ag Boss designate Tom Vilsack is a friend of big Iowa corn farmers (ethanol), the biotech industry, and mega hogfarming, he doesn’t exactly sound like he’s ready for major reforms of agribusiness.  Speaking on National Public Radio,  sustainable foods advocate/author Michael Pollan said he was disappointed when Obama introduced Vilsack to the world and the new Secretary never even mentioned food or the people who eat it.  Still, it could have been worse.  Pollan is cautiously “hopeful” because Vilsack has suggested a cap to big farm subsidies, the idea of using the savings for farmland conservation, and he says he wants to encourage more local food production. The devil will be in the details,  how much they cost and who they threaten.

Though Obama and Vilsack have supported corn-based ethanol production in the past,  a challenge may come from Obama’s new secretary of energy Steven Chu, a strong critic of corn-based ethanol because it’s a major factor in driving up the cost of food. “I would imagine [Chu] will be arguing for moving away from corn as a feedstock for ethanol, toward other [non-food] crops,” such as trees, crop waste, maybe grasses.

 Listen to Pollan’s remarks.

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