It's Vilsack: Obama Picks Pro-GMO and Pro-Biofuels Ag Secretary
Major news outlets are reporting that Obama will name former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as his Secretary of Agriculture. If you're at all concerned with genetically modified foods, cloned animals, and biofuels, then this appointment is likely to disappoint. In 2001 Vilsack was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. The Nation has some great commentary on what the Secretary of Agriculture does and why this position is actually a huge deal. Not only does the agency deal with nutrition programs, organic food, and food safety but there's a lot more. Here's John Nichols:
The USDA is a key player when it comes to energy policy, both because of the rise of biofuels and because of the increasingly adventurous grant-making by its Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program.
The USDA's Forest Service administers almost 300,000 square miles of national forests and grasslands.
The secretary of Agriculture is, as well, often a definitional player in trade debates -- as the question of how the United States supports farmers remains an essential one when it comes to forging trade agreements and engagement with the World Trade Organization.
With a $97 billion annual budget and roughly 110,000 employees -- more than the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy combined -- it is one of the largest non-defense agencies in the federal government. And its hand is everywhere, with thousands of county extension offices spread across every state.
So how will we fare with Vilsack in this position? Nichols again: