Obama and Food

The NY Times posted a letter written to President-Elect Obama by 88 people who hope he can effect a change in Department of Agriculture with his pick of that department’s Cabinet Secretary. The evidence that something needs to change (and soon) in our food industry continues to mount at an astonishing rate. I’m currently reading an advance copy of Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Righteous Porkchop, which in the 40 or so pages I’ve read contains horrifying descriptions of industrial agriculture and how it has basically corrupted our government while it pollutes our country. Of course Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma contains some of that info, plus ways to eat responsibly. I recently read an advance of another book, Foie Gras Wars by Mark Caro, in which an animal rights activist put forth a proposition I thought made a lot of sense. I’m paraphrasing here, but what this man said he would do if he was President is to make the Agriculture Industry more transparent. That way people would be able to make informed decisions about what they eat. I think this is something that has been long overdue. We are currently experiencing the results of a lack of transparency in the financial sector, and look at the havoc it’s causing. Imagine what could happen if the same kind of meltdown occurs to the American food industry?

I’ve always maintained that although I’m a vegetarian, I’m not preachy about it. It’s a choice I’ve made in my life, and I think everyone should be able to make their own decisions about what they consume. But how can we be expected to make the right decisions if we don’t know the truth about the food we’re eating? I’d add my name to that letter to Obama if I could. I suppose this little post will have to do for now.

Here’s their list of six potential nominees, copied directly from the NY Times:

Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
Chuck Hassebrook, executive director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Neb.
Sarah Vogel, former Commissioner of Agriculture for North Dakota, lawyer, Bismarck, N.D.
Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, and president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.


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