Now Colorado U.S. Rep. John Salazar is lead horse in the race to become the next secretary of agriculture, according to the Denver Post. Salazar is a third-term congressman and a farmer from the San Luis Valley town of Manassa. His brother, Ken, is a U.S. Senator from Colorado. (Ken is above left; John is right.) The trouble for Democrats is that Rep. Salazar comes from a district that is normally Republican. Sending him to the cabinet could result is the loss of a Democratic seat.

The trouble for Salazar is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is facing “intractable problems,” according to a story in today’s Washington Post. President-elect Obama promised he would help family farms, end childhood hunger and reinvigorate rural economies. But, as the Post points out, the USDA is still straightening out its crop subsidy program, is stuck with an outdated and ineffective food inspection system and still fails to “identify more than 30 percent of Americans who live in poverty and are at risk of hunger every month.”

“Bush officials in the USDA say the demands (on the agency) are staggering,” the Post reports. Food programs are expanding with the recession and already take up two-thirds of the agency’s budget. Meanwhile, recent reports from government oversight agencies find that the most urgent need is for a total revamp of the nation’s food inspection program.

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