[FoRK] Four more years...
Adam L Beberg
beberg at mithral.com
Wed Dec 17 10:58:07 PST 2008
... of the ethanol scam and 99% of our food being corn. At least this
will help the stress on wall street - all those bankers getting big
checks not to grow food will help.
December 17, 2008
Iowa Ex-Governor Picked for Agriculture Secretary
By JEFF ZELENY and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama has selected former Gov. Tom
Vilsack of Iowa to serve as his agriculture secretary, according to
officials familiar with the decision, and will make the announcement on
Wednesday as he works to round out his remaining cabinet nominations.
Mr. Vilsack, who briefly sought the Democratic presidential nomination
in the 2008 race after serving two terms as governor, is a strong
proponent of renewable energy and developing the nation’s alternative
fuel industry. He will be joined at a news conference here by Senator
Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, who will be nominated as interior
Mr. Vilsack’s nomination comes at a time of extraordinary tumult for the
American agricultural industry, which not only has been battered by the
recession, but is also increasingly entangled in the contentious debate
over energy policy. The Agriculture Department is also contending with a
sharp increase in the demand for food assistance in the wake of the
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Vilsack are regarded as staunch advocates of
ethanol and other bio-fuels as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on
foreign oil. And Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress are working on a
major economic stimulus package, in which they intend to promote the
creation of thousands of new jobs tied to “green energy” industries,
including the production of solar and wind energy.
One of the first major decisions Mr. Obama and Mr. Vilsack may have to
make is whether to grant the ethanol industry’s requests for billions in
federal aid in the stimulus bill, which Mr. Obama has said he hopes to
sign into law quickly, perhaps on his first day in office.
“The big issue for him and any incoming secretary is going to be
biofuels, that’s the sector that right now is in such a volatile
position,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group,
a nonprofit group that is a leading critic of federal farm subsidies.
American farmers, Mr. Cook said, are “hitched to both the food system
and the energy system, both of which are oscillating.”
Mr. Vilsack, 58, sought the presidential nomination for about three
months, dropping out shortly after Mr. Obama entered the race. At the
time, Mr. Vilsack criticized the campaign as a process that rewarded
intense fund-raising over innovative ideas. He endorsed Senator Hillary
Rodham Clinton and served as a co-chairman of her campaign, often
criticizing Mr. Obama as lacking experience for the job.
But during the general election, Mr. Vilsack energetically campaigned
for Mr. Obama, promoting their common ideas on renewable energy and
rural growth. Late last month, Mr. Vilsack told friends he did not
believe he would be selected because he had not been interviewed, but
Democrats familiar with the process said the two men got along well
during a recent meeting in Chicago.
Mr. Vilsack, like the president-elect, is a strong advocate of combating
global warming and developing alternative sources of energy. He was the
co-chairman of a task force last year on climate change for the Council
on Foreign Relations, which recommended phasing out subsidies for mature
biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, as well as reducing tariffs on
imported biofuels like Brazilian sugar ethanol.
“Let us build a 21st-century rural economy of cutting-edge companies and
technologies that lead us to energy and food security,” Mr. Vilsack
wrote in one of several op-ed articles he had published during the
campaign. “Such an investment will revitalize rural America,
re-establish our moral leadership on climate security and eliminate our
addiction to foreign oil.”
Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union, said Tuesday evening
that the biggest challenge facing the next agriculture secretary would
be writing rules for the new farm bill. Mr. Buis praised the selection
of Mr. Vilsack, who as governor promoted the use of alternative energy
as a means of revitalizing rural America.
“Governors understand what’s going on out there,” Mr. Buis said. “With
the severe economic conditions in rural America, it’s good to have
someone who understands the challenges we face.”
Mr. Vilsack, a native of Pittsburgh, moved to Iowa to live in the
hometown of his college-sweetheart-turned-wife, Christie Vilsack. His
career in politics was unexpectedly born in 1986 when a disgruntled
resident of Mount Pleasant barged into a City Council meeting and killed
Mr. Vilsack stepped in to serve as mayor. He later ran for the State
Senate and in 1998 was elected governor in a campaign that even his
closest friends did not believe he could win.
Mr. Vilsack, who has spent the fall semester as a political fellow at
the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, works as a
lawyer in Des Moines. Four years ago, he was among those who were
considered to be a running mate for Senator John Kerry. Mr. Vilsack was
not on the short list of candidates to join Mr. Obama’s ticket.
Experts said Mr. Vilsack’s experience as governor of a major
corn-producing state makes him intimately familiar with many of the
issues, but it also raises questions about whether he will be partial to
growers of the crop that his state is known for.
“You can’t be a politician from Iowa and not be identified with a
pro-corn, pro-ethanol stance,” said Mr. Cook, who leads the
Environmental Working Group. “I just hope he will be more realistic and
shoot straight with the public about what the prospects are of this in
terms of energy independence.”
Jeff Zeleny reported from Chicago, and David M. Herszenhorn from Washington.
More information about the FoRK