by Marion Nestle
Dec 22 2008

The NY Times weighs in on the Vilsack appointment

The New York Times editorial writers have some interesting things to say about the challenges facing the new USDA secretary.  The Vilsack appointment, they say, “has the merit of being unsatisfactory to both extremes of the farm-policy debates.”  This makes me wonder when sustainable agriculture will be viewed as the wave of the future, and not as “extreme.”  Soon?

12/23 update: Here’s Kim Severson’s piece in the food section on what needs to happen at the USDA.

  • The New York Times editorial really says nothing of substance. It refers to his support of biotechnology, and intimates that his support is an issue for the fringes or those “zealous” supporters of sustainable agriculture. What the MS media is missing is that Vilsack is more than just a supporter of GE; he is one of its biggest cheerleaders.

    He will likely oppose any sort of labeling for GE plants or seeds. He will likely oppose the proposed ban on terminator technology. He will likely oppose the proposed ban on contractual clauses that prohibit seed saving.

    I’m quite sure that Monsanto, Dow, BIGMAP and others could not be happier with the appointment of Vilsack as Secretary of Agribusiness.

    Obama clearly was listening to the wrong people.

    Rick Tannenbaum

  • I’d been following the pre-appointment analysis and written about it, as well. It was a frustrating decision, but I am not completely without hope.

    In 2007, he was interviewed by Grist magazine and when it came to discussing his support for organic and family farms, he at least sounded the right notes. I’m hopeful the public will hold him to his statements. At the same time, I’m hopeful he won’t fill the USDA with appointees cherry-picked from Monsanto as has been the case for quite some time now. I’m hopeful, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Surely there are dozens, if not hundreds of experienced ag people at the state level who could bring new viewpoints free of industrial agriculture money to the USDA.

    Even with Vilsack coming in, we still have a chance to push for real, profound change in the Department of Agriculture. We shouldn’t let this opportunity pass by.

    The Grist interview, by the way, can be found at: