by Marion Nestle
Dec 17 2008

The new Secretary of Agriculture is Tom Vilsack

Well, we now have our answer to the question of who President-elect Obama will appoint to head the USDA: former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack.  I don’t know much about him.  What I hear is that he is former chair of the Governors Ethanol Coalition (uh oh), the Governors Biotechnology Partnership (oops), and the National Governors Association’s Natural Resources Committees (not sure about this one). I’m disappointed.  This looks like mainstream, industrial agriculture to me, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, at least for awhile.

The Organic Consumers Association, however, is not.  It says his appointment is hardly “change we can believe in,” and it “sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration.”  If you agree with the OCA, you can join its petition opposing the appointment.

According to, Vilsack is a lawyer who does not have roots in farming.  He did, however, compete for the presidential nomination.  And let’s not forget Wikipedia, which has already added this appointment to Vilsack’s biography; its entry points out that this appointment strongly contradicts Obama’s campaign promises: “Obama and Biden will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability.”

Ah politics.

And for more about this appointment, see Kerry Trueman’s Eating Liberally blog.

  • I’m disappointed. Vilsack will be the Secretary of Monoculture and the Secretary of Agribusiness. He is a beard for Monsanto and a bit too close to BIGMAP. He also has some bad history on CAFOs and environmental issues related to them.

    Will he support labeling GE foods? Will he support a ban on terminator technology? Will he support a ban on seed comany contracts that prohibit seed saving for future crops?

    I’ve blogged about it in detail.

    Rick Tannenbaum

  • Marguerite

    I am no fan of Monsanto, but I do want to give Vilsack a chance.
    One thing Obama seems to be doing is putting a mix of people in office, different camps, different voices. if we could change the world in one election I’d want the rights to that fantasy film.
    I’m hopeful that his Monsanto voice will be greeted with opposing voices in the administration. Voices to balance this food lunacy policy out, from the farmers who plant the seed up. I’m hopeful for small changes. and I remind myself every day that I vote for quality food every time I shop at a commercial grocery store by insisting on buying organic. The public must be involved and not wait for a savior. Pressure must continue to be applied.

  • Well, we now have our answer to the question of who President-elect Obama will appoint to head the USDA: former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. I don’t know much about him.

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