In an interview this week, Vilsack called for the Department of Agriculture to champion not only farmers but eaters as well. This approach is a significant departure from the traditional role of the USDA which traditionally focuses on programs that benefit commercial farming.
Food activists are encouraged by early Vilsack decisions, such as the reinstatement of $3.2 million in grant funding for fruit and vegetable growers, which was abandoned in the final days of the Bush administration, and his support for establishing school and urban gardens. David Murphy, director of Food Democracy Now, says, "The new secretary's reputation as a friend to agribusiness and ethanol producers may have been overstated."Even with President Obama's full support, Vilsack is under pressure to protect agribuisness interests. Black writes, "At Vilsack's confirmation hearing Jan. 14, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., warned that he should not lose sight of the farmers who produce 'the food and fiber for America and a troubled and hungry world'." (Read more)