The New York Times' Caucus blog is reporting that President-Elect Obama has settled on former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as his Secretary of Agriculture.
While just a few weeks ago I wrote that Vilsack didn't seem like the most horrible choice for AgSec, compared to some of the other names being floated (Hello, Dennis Wolfe and Collin Petersen!), that was before a Don Quixote of an Iowa activist named Dave Murphy launched a petition to plead with Obama's transition team to consider six potential reformers for the position instead. Signed by some of the biggest names in the sustainable food world — Wendell Berry, Bill Niman, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Alice Waters, etc. — the FoodDemocracyNow.org petition today passed 54,000 signatures, thanks to publicity from the New York Times, Daily Kos, BoingBoing, and others.
Well, tough cookies. That's not how politics works, apparently. (Right about now our favorite guest poster Steph Larsen is saying "I told you so." But nicely.)
Read my previous post for more about Vilsack, which drew heavily on this in-depth look from The Center for Rural Affairs about Vilsack's stances on subsidies, meat producer consolidation, and genetically modified foods. Our main concern about him is that he did nothing to stop the proliferation of or regulate CAFOs in Iowa as governor, and his pro-GMO background and ties to the biotech industry. The Organic Consumers Association has a list of his biotech shenanigans.
Well, we dared to dream. Thanks for all those who signed the petition, blogged it, and passed it on. And a big round of applause for Dave Murphy, who got this whole petition party started and tilted tirelessly at Washington's windmills like a madman with a laptop for a lance day and night for the past week. Jill Richardson has a great post up about Dave over at her blog, La Vida Locavore.
Next time, we'll have to get organized faster.