Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reformer Hassebrook won't be Vilsack's deputy

According to sources close to him, Chuck Hassebrook, left, executive director of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs will not be appointed deputy agriculture secretary. Hassebrook was pushed by individuals and groups that want the USDA to shift its support from agribuisnesses to smaller farms.

"Hassebrook was a favorite of those who favored deep reforms of farm payment and subsidy programs," reports Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder. Supporters of Hassebrook's appointment included the group Food Democracy Now, headed by writer Michael Pollan, and sustainable-agriculture advocate, author, essayist and poet Wendell Berry. Other suppoters inculded New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Daily Yonder correspondent Richard Oswald. In his blog Kristof writes, "The Obama administration needs to figure out how to make the Agriculture Department serve the interests of the entire country, not just the agribusiness tycoons, and Hassebrook would have been a way to turn the department into a bigger tent."

Some see this view as naive. Bishop adds, "Other writers see Hassebrook as a rural romantic who hasn't caught up with the current state of agriculture — big farms on large acreages operating very expensive equipment."

Hassebrook seems to be a casualty of the debate over the future of the USDA. With Secretary Tom Vilsack seen as neither a reformer or keeper of the status quo, the appointment of his deputy is at the center of the debate over the future farm policy. (Read more)

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