Don't forget the Secretary of Agriculture

USDA has important wildlife, forestry, land and food safety jurisdiction-

Most of our concern has been about the secretary of Interior, but the Secretary of Agriculture is equally important and almost always goes to some minion of industrial ag.

So far the names floated by Obama don’t look good. Originally Obama was considering the industrial apologist, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack for the position, but grassroots opposition (or something) caused him to drop Vilsack.

Now the leading name is Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn).  Peterson, like Vilsack is a promoter of corporate industrial agriculture. He is the head of the House Agriculture Committee. He is a no change candidate.

Personally, I am tired of spending hour after hour shopping trying to determine which products are more or less safe. There was a time when you didn’t have to worry so. That was before food inspections were cut back and dubious ingredients added from suspect places like China (think melamine)

USDA policies turned Iowa from a state with diverse agriculture into one big corn field. Michael Pollan tells how that happened in “Omnivores Dilemma.”

The U.S. Forest Service is in the Dept. of Agriculture as well as rouge agencies like APHIS and Wildlife Services.

Please take the time to share your insights and views about the Secretary of Agriculture at:

Addition: an interesting article on the importance of Dan Froomkin. Washington Post.

– – – –

Here are some ideas. Perhaps a visionary like Michael Pollan (Omnivores Dilemma) for a top USDA positions. Here are some other progressive candidates for high-level USDA positions. Jim Riddle, a national organic farmer leader, Texas populist Jim Hightower, Tom Buis from the National Farmers Union, and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. You can read the profiles of some of these possible USDA appointees here.

Note: I grabbed the above from an alert from the Organic Consumers. RM





  1. Virginia Avatar

    I have sent my nominations to the Obama team for Michael Pollan and Raul Grijalva for Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture. Jim Hightower is a really smart man who writes for my favorite paper – Liberal Opinion, but not sure if he fits the profile.

  2. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    I have heard Colorado Congressman John Salazar is high on the list. He is an active farmer in the San Lois Valley. I would hate to loose him as my congressman.


  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I don’t like the idea of raiding Congress for appointments except in those districts where a fairly good replacement is likely, and I know your district is not one of those.

  4. Wolfy Avatar

    The USDA needs a good flush, too. Whoever takes the reins of the department should be ready for a long, contentious fight with Big Agro-Business. They are more ingrained in the inner workings of congress than Big Oil. And the USDA is much more than a corn-subsidizing agency; they hold the keys to millions of square miles of some of America’s most spectacular land. The major land-holding agency in the USDA is the US Forest Service. And the Forest Service is in trouble; big time.

    The bush legacy for the Forest Service is one that should embarrass any politician or official involved with its demise over the last 8 years. The Clinton era brought the Forest Service up from a tree-slashing beast of the 1980’s to a true steward of the land. In the last 8 years, the bush cronies have stripped it to a shell of its former self. They have outsourced most of the critical functions of the Forest Service to ineffectual and sometimes corrupt contractors. The roads, trails and campgrounds of the Service are mostly lying in ruins. Fire fighting now takes over 50% of the Service’s budget – money that could have been spent protecting wildlife, making communities fire-wise, and fixing our campgrounds. In addition, many talented and hard-working people that loved their jobs with the Service have lost their jobs to contractors and the bush cronies.

    Obama needs to clean out the top levels of the Forest Service as well as the USDA. Under-Secretary Rey and Forest Service Chief Kimbell should be the first one on the job chopping block. They gladly took their marching orders from the W clan to gut the Service. They should be ashamed of the mess that they have made.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well because he is a political appointee, Mark Rey, will be gone instantly.

    The Chief Forester is another matter. This position, unlike the director of the National Park Service, is not a political appointment, although he or she can be fired from that particular Forest Service position. This happened during the Clinton Administration to the great benefit of the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest.

    Nevertheless, removing the Chief Forester is always controversial ever since Taft fired Gifford Pinchot back in 1910 (the Ballinger Affair)

  6. James Avatar

    Salazar is terrible on endangered species. The Endangered Species Coalition (Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Native Ecosystems, Defenders etc.) are circulating a sign on letter asking the Obama transition team to exclude John Salazar from consideration for Sec Interior. I would hate to see him as Sec Ag as well since it puts him in charge of Wildlife Services. He is one Dem we could also afford to lose in Congress.

  7. monty Avatar

    Does Michael Pollan have a realistic chance to be appointed Sec.of Ag.: I think not. Maybe Wendell Berry or Wes Jackson (with the Kansas Land Institute) would be great choices but I don’t think they would serve or have a chance of being appointed. At best, it would be nice if the next Sec. of Ag., whomever that may be, would consult with such noteables as Micheal, Berry & Wes.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    In sum the effect of the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries can be more important than the secretary him or herself.
    Many of of the awful last minute stuff being pushed through comes from these lower level Bush officials. I imagine George W. is blissfully unaware of many of them just like he has been of so many things in his presidency.

    Therefore, a big question is to what degree will the new secretary be allowed to choose these subordinate positions? From the standpoint of maximum political benefit, a President would do well to reserve many of these lesser appointments for his office.


Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan