The Washington Post put out a short list for Obama's Secretary of Agriculture today. Emphasis on the word "short." The list we've been working with thus far is now down to three names. Including two BAD names: Charles Stenholm (Ag Whore), and Dennis Wolff (Evildoer). The third option is Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas. (Rep. John Salazar adds his own name to the list too... he's also not someone we'd want.)
ACTION: GO WEIGH IN at Change.gov. Details on each of these people are below. Of the bunch, I like Sebelius.
UPDATE: New info from Center for Food Safety added below.
She's a super-popular Democratic governor of a very red state. Obviously she's a skilled politician. Some even floated her name as a choice for Obama's VP last summer. Apparently she's strong on children's health issues, and as far as agriculture goes she's more or less a blank slate. As I see it, that's a good thing.
Sebelius has no Washington experience, and her knowledge of agricultural issues is limited to those she has confronted as governor of an agriculturally rich state.
My only potential problem with Sebelius that I know of is Kansas' recent actions to ban rbGH-labeling. I don't think she was the main force behind that but it worries me that she hasn't put a stop to it altogether. Perhaps things will change after Tuesday's hearing (the testimony at the hearing was overwhelmingly anti-rbGH).
Where do I even start. He's a lobbyist for Big Ag. Yikes. But if that isn't bad enough, he was the ranking member of the House Ag Committee during his 13 term career in the House. That's NOT something to be proud of. If I've got my facts right, he was not too much different than the current House Ag committee chair Collin Peterson (Mr. "Organic consumers are dumb"). He had a cotton farm... cotton uses 25% of all insecticides and 10% of all pesticides in this country and gets tons of subsidies. And 86% of cotton grown these days is genetically-modified.
What I don't understand about this potential pick is that it would go so directly opposite of so many things on Obama's platform. Starting with the fact that he's a lobbyist.
UPDATE: From Center for Food Safety:
Former Texas congressman and Big Ag lobbyist Charles Stenholm. Stenholm has an abysmal voting record on environmental, food, farm, and animal welfare issues. In 2003, Stenholm fought against the successful ban on processing downer cows for human consumption. While in office, Stenholm stanchly opposed the Food Quality Protection Act, the landmark 1996 pesticide reform law that required a new safety standard – reasonable certainty of no harm – to be applied to all pesticides used on food commodities. Stenholm is currently a chief lobbyist at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC, which has lobbied on behalf of some of the largest industry associations and agribusinesses, including Syngenta, National Meat Association, Kraft Foods, Beef Products, Inc., and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Stenholm has received a meager 15% approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters because of his continued anti-environment voting record;
Dennis Wolff is the Monsanto-loving, sustainable-ag-hating Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture. He's a dairy farmer who seems to be entirely bought into all of the nasty factory farm principles that I so strongly oppose. I've written about him at length recently, and so has Shirah. He tried to ban rbGH-free labels in Pennsylvania (i.e. if you DON'T use a cruel hormone that is linked to cancer in humans, then you can't let consumers know about it) but it was overturned by Gov. Rendell. Still, Rendell has come out in favor of Wolff for head of the USDA. This is just plain scary.
UPDATE: From Center for Food Safety:
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff. As Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary, Wolff vociferously pushed an unpopular state ban on the labeling of dairy products produced without the use of genetically engineered, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH). After months of hearing testimony opposing the ban from consumers, dairy producers, and retailers, Wolff refused to rescind the rules. In response to widespread opposition, the Governor then had to step in and rescind the labeling ban. Wolff also has a long history of pushing the Big Ag agenda in PA. With Wolff’s support, Pennsylvania’s ACRE initiative preempted local governments from instituting agricultural regulations stronger than the state’s lax regulations. This initiative has stripped local governments of the power to reject placement of, or even to regulate, huge "concentrated animal feeding operations" (CAFOs) near their communities to mitigate environmental and public health threats, or to regulate the use of sewage sludge. Pre-emption bills of this sort are inherently undemocratic and force communities to accept polluting agricultural facilities and practices against their will;
"I am humbled that I may be under consideration as a possible nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. Should President-elect Obama honor me with a nomination to Agriculture, I would certainly consider it. However, at this time, I am continuing my work on behalf of my constituents in the 3rd Congressional District and preparing for the many difficult challenges facing the 111th Congress." - John Salazar, D-CO
Salazar's on the Ag Committee, which means he sucks. I've had conversations on this at length with Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny. He's got an incredible amount of knowledge about every member of Congress. The simple rule of thumb is: IF you are on the ag committee and your name isn't Rep Kagen (WI-08), you SUCK. Apparently he owns an enormous potato farm in Colorado and he's a Bush Dog Dem (i.e. conservative Dem who votes with Bush). I don't have more info on this guy that I can come up with quickly... I'll need time to work on it, but I know I don't want him charge of our food supply.
Please, please speak up. Go to Change.gov and give them your thoughts.