Tom Vilsack, The New Face Of Agriculture
Wednesday, February 11, 2009; F01
Sustainable-food and farming activists in Washington have long felt they were on the outside looking in. New Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says he wants to change that. In an interview with staff writer Jane Black, the former Iowa governor, 58, talked about his personal struggles with food and about his vision of how to transform the department -- maybe even rename it -- to serve a broader range of interests. Edited excerpts follow:
Some in the sustainable-food community have worried that you are too closely identified with ethanol and agribusiness. Is that fair?
First, I would ask for the opportunity for people to get to know me and judge me by the actions I take in this office. I'm not sure the full nature of the record was understood.
Will local foods play a part?
In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that. But sometimes that stresses the capacity: the production capacity or the distribution capacity. Especially since we don't have yet a very sophisticated distribution system for locally grown food. One thing we can do is work on strategies to make that happen. It can be grant programs, loan programs, it can be technical assistance. Read More
Any time there is a new administration in Washington DC, people are searching for clues as to how things will be ran. There has been considerable interest in the Department of Agriculture this time around. Regardless of what the name on the building is or who they work for, at the end of the day our government must create an environment that allows producers to do what they do best, and that is feeding and clothing this country.
And one other thing, do we really need a sophisticated distribution system for local food? I thought that was the point of the local food movement.