Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promises that he understands American eaters. “This is a department that intersects the lives of Americans two to three times a day. Every single American,” Vilsack told the Washington Post’s Jane Black. “So I absolutely see the constituency of this department as broader than those who produce our food — it extends to those who consume it.”
The growing (and vocal) food lobby was at first angry with President Obama’s choice of Vilsack, who they saw as a spokesman for corporate agriculture and ethanol producers. A New York Times columnist announced we didn’t need a Secretary of Agriculture as much as we need a Secretary of Food. The initial displeasure with Vilsack appears to be muting, however. “He’s definitely sounding a different note than his predecessors,” Michael Pollan (above) told Black. (Pollan, author and food supply reformer, is the unofficial spokesman for America’s food folks.) “Whether they’ll be reflected in policies remains to be seen.”
Vilsack’s first official act was to restore $3.2 million in funding for fruit and vegetable farmers that was cut in the final days of the Bush Administration. Vilsack talked to Black about teaching kids about food and establishing food policy councils in every state (something he did as governor of Iowa).