Friday, December 19, 2008

For discussion: Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary

Barack Obama's choice of governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary is not going over well with many in the sustainability community, reported here in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. I have some initial reactions.

Politically, I'm not thrilled by this choice, if I start from the premise that someone tied to the agriculture business is not going to help guide us towards a more sustainable agriculture. I am interested in seeing the governing tone Obama sets with this representative of status quo thinking. Perhaps Vilsack's knowledge, although historically slanted towards the interests of big ag, will be an asset that will be utilized towards a different type of agriculture policy. We'll see.

If change in this regards come, I would like to see a reduction in the amount of subsidies farmers are paid for growing corn and producing ethanol, as I think the government can incentivize much better innovation than using our farmland for growing a poor choice of fuel crop like corn. With that, I would like to see encouragement of other crops. If part of our energy strategy is to produce some fuel from crops, I don't think it shouldn't be from food crops.

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