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Secretary of Food????

December 11, 2008

Maybe we don’t want a secretary of agriculture after all? Maybe that archaic term describes only half of what we’ve come to understand as a complete system that affects all Americans on and off the fields? In an editorial on the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that the question of how we frame this all-important decision will have far-reaching consequences as to how this administration will deal with food and agriculture over the next four years.

Change we can believe in, might after all mean dramatic reorganization at every level of what currently stands as a confusing, inaccessible bureaucracy primarily concerned with doling out checks to fewer than 2% of the population.

Kristof gives one striking example of just how bizzare the USDA policies have become:

One measure of the absurdity of the system: Every year you, the American taxpayer, send me a check for $588 in exchange for me not growing crops on timberland I own in Oregon (I forward the money to a charity). That’s right. The Agriculture Department pays a New York journalist not to grow crops in a forest in Oregon.

A change in the language we use to label this part of our government could mean an actual understanding of the way that food operates in America: John Block, a former secretary of agriculture, said publicly the other day that we should rename the USDA the Department of Food, agriculture and forestry,” and Kristof believes that “Department of Food” would put refocus the organization on the 300 million people in America that eat food on a semi-regular basis.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 17, 2008 4:23 am

    Department of Food would make sense, as well as changing our USDA Food Guide from a sterile pyramid representing industrial food to a majestic tree that reflects the natural world. This image like a pyramid can catorgorize food and can be useful in explaining personal health and farming. Healthy food and trees have similar needs: both need sun, water and good soil, and with the farmer tilling the land we get food, hence, the Department of Food. I like this logical flow. With trees we step beyond commodity foods into the natural world, the world we are all participating in saving.

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