New Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Not that Bad After All
The sustainable food movement as whole was less than pleased when Tom Vilsack was announced as secretary of agriculture. As former governor of Iowa he was seen as a friend of industrial agriculture, a claim that his close ties with pure manifestation of evil Monsanto did not help to refute.
All of this criticism, however, was based on his actions as governor of Iowa and not as secretary of agriculture. I was talking to Will Allen, CEO of growing power yesterday, and he stressed how important it was to not judge Vilsack based on his previous actions, and rather let him and the new administration prove themselves before judging them.
It appears that Tom Vilsack may be doing just that. In his early days as secretary of agriculture, Vilsack has been re-envisioningthe department of agriculture as more than just a handy subsidy dispensing and corn disposal organization. He’s made some heartening decisions and some very encouraging public statements suggesting that his department of agriculture will be putting an increased focus on nutrition, environmentalism, and the health of the agricultural economy. He sees the department of agriculture more along the lines that we would hope he would. He told the Washington Post:
The department has a global influence in terms of food, in terms of consumers and in terms of some of the moral challenges that a wealthy nation faces in the face of hunger. So I absolutely see the constituency of this department as broader than those who produce our food. It extends to those who consume it.
Not bad. He’s extended 3.2 million dollars in grant funding for fruit and vegetable farmers (an insignificant financial amount but a significant symbolic amount) and expressed a commitment towards “mak[ing] a better connection between what kids eat and knowing where it comes from” through school and community garden programs.
We have yet to dismantle subsidies, we have yet to put a garden in every school, and we have yet to clone dinosaurs. But Vilsack is beginning to move us in the right direction towards establishing a healthy national food system.