by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Obama

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 meatpoultry.com, 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.

Tags: ,
Nov 11 2008

GAO says Obama should fix food safety

The Government Accountability Office says fixing the food safety system should be a high priority for the new administration.  Specifically, it asks the new President to:

  • Reconvene the President’s Council on Food Safety right away, and develop longer term structures to promote interagency coordination on food safety.
  • Develop a “governmentwide performance plan” for agencies to ensure that goals are complementary and resource allocations are balanced.
  • Encourage Congress to assign the National Academy of Sciences to analyze alternative food safety organizational structures.
  • Encourage Congress to pass “comprehensive, uniform, and risk-based food safety legislation.”
Nov 10 2008

Who will Obama appoint: the game begins

The guessing game about appointments to key posts in food and agriculture – Secretaries of USDA and HHS and head of the FDA – is now well underway.  Here’s the current guess from Packer.com, which represents the produce industry, and must be hoping for business-as-usual.  I’m hoping for a breath of fresh air.  Fingers crossed.

Tags:
Nov 6 2008

What Obama thinks about agriculture

Meatpoultry.com has collected President-Elect Obama’s statements about agriculture from his website (you will need to register – it’s free – to read this).  As with much else about Obama’s views, these ideas sound hopeful.  He will need much encouragement to follow through on some of these promises.

Nov 5 2008

California passes prop. #2

President Obama!  Other amazing things happened too.  I’m not sure which is more amazing: the approval of Proposition #2 by an astonishing 63% of California votors, or today’s up-to-the-second Wikipedia entry on the election results.  If you read Prop #2, you can see that it abolishes veal crates, battery cages, and sow crates and requires veal, chickens, and pregnant pigs to be given enough space to turn around, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.  They can’t do these things now?  Nope.   So now what happens: will meat producers reform their confinement practices?  Or will they simply move their production operations to other states or countries?  We can only wait until 2015 – which is when all this is supposed to come into effect – and see.

Tags: ,
Nov 3 2008

Vote!!!

Lucien Joppen, who writes for Voedingsmiddelen Industrie, a Dutch food business magazine, asked this question: What does the U.S. election of either Obama or McCain mean for food and health policy? Here’s what I told him in English:

If it is McCain, it is business as usual or – impossible as it may be to imagine – worse. If Obama is elected, things could get better. The decision to vote for Obama may be a matter of the triumph of hope over experience, but everyone I know who cares deeply about social issues wants him to win, and by a huge margin. I do too.

The history of American politics teaches that once elected, candidates do not necessarily keep campaign promises so let’s not deal with the details. Both candidates have issued vague health care proposals and neither seems willing to take on insurance companies and demand what experts believe is absolutely necessary to fix the system: develop a single-payer health care program with universal coverage. If McCain is elected, we have no reason to expect improvement. If Obama wins, we can hope that he will use his mandate to push through a single-payer system.

As for food policy, the big question is who is appointed to lead the USDA. Historically, the USDA has promoted the interests of agribusiness. It still does, but the agency is now also responsible for everything connected to food policy: farm subsidies, land use, organic standards, international food trade, food assistance to low-income families, and dietary advice to the public. If McCain is elected, expect to see another USDA Secretary who represents agribusiness. I do not know who is advising Obama about agricultural issues (he has not asked me, alas), but let’s hope his advisers have a broad view of food and nutrition policy that includes social concerns about food security and food equity. Maybe we will get lucky. Let’s hope for fair weather and a huge voter turnout. Every vote counts, and—according to this video—mine is especially valued (and yours too!).