Saturday, November 29, 2008

Secretary of Food

I have, on occasion, made reference to Michael Pollan and his ideas about food. My earth day comments included a reference to Pollan's statement that you can do more to combat global warming by planting a garden than by installing CFL's. More recently, I referred to his recent letter to President-elect Obama that was published in the NY Times Magazine.

Last night, I watched Bill Moyers Journal as Moyers asked Pollan what he would do were he to become the Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama administration. Click Read more! to get my take.

I rarely get the opportunity to get ahead of Moyers. Maybe this time I was successful because he was on vacation. My Green Talk column in the very local Morgan Hill Times this week got at the same issue, though not as directly.
Still, I am of the opinion that possibly the single most important appointment the new president will make is to the position of Secretary of Agriculture. We have gone through an era in which the family farm has disappeared, in which factory farms and multinational corporations like ADM dominate not only the market but also the politics of agriculture.

There are two issues here. One is the fact that, as Pollan told Moyers that have to understand that that department of the government, the $90 billion a year behemoth is captive of agri-business. It is owned by agri-business. They're in the room making policy there.
I agree with Pollan that making change in Agriculture has to go through Nancy Pelosi. We not only need to watch Obama's choice for Sec. of Agriculture, we need to pay attention to Pelosi's appointment to the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture. In the past, that committee has been loaded with Representatives from the mid-western farm states and California's Centeral Valley. They represent farm interests meaning ADM, Cargill and Blue Diamond Walnuts. (Yes. it get's that specific.) No one on that committee makes a habit of representing consumers for any other issue than driving down the prices of food and driving the family farms out of business.

There are a couple of actions that we can take. The easy one is to go sign a petition to Obama to name Pollan Secretary of Agriculture. As he told Moyers, he won't take it but getting some names on the petition is one way to make a statement without having to really do anything else.

More to the point, we need to create pressure on Pelosi in every way that we can. That means writing letters / OpEds to the San Francisco Chronicle, Challenging Michael Krasny to put Pollan on KQED's FORUM program again and then following up with call-ins and email questions. As I said at the end of my MH Times Column...
Even in my own Green Party it is not easy to get people to think of agriculture in this way. It challenges many deeply held, but false beliefs in how the real systems work. I am working to change that, in my community, in my party, in the whole country. Join me.

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