The headline in Hoosier Ag Today announced: “Obama Cabinet Lining Up Behind Biofuels.” That’s not the kind of announcement that makes the foodie lobby happy. But it does appear to be true. At his confirmation hearings last week, Ag Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack (the former governor of Iowa, above) talked about the importance of maintaining the corn ethanol industry, even if it’s just a means to move to cellulosic ethanol (produced with feed stock other than corn, such as grasses or corn cobs).
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu told a Senate committee, “I really believe in the probability that we can develop fourth generation biofuels, that is to say, biofuels that come from the agricultural waste streams, that we now generate, the lumber mill waste streams, and growing grasses that don’t have to compete with prime agricultural land.”
Vilsack’s nomination has been received less than warmly from those who want deep reform of agriculture. They see the Obama nominee as a corporate farm advocate who would ignore the local food movement. Philip Brasher, in the Des Moines Register interviewed Neil Hamilton, an ag law expert at Drake and one of six people recommended to Obama for ag secretary by Food Democracy Now!, the Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry group. Hamilton said critics see Vilsack as “coming from only part of agriculture, and I don’t think that probably is accurate.” When asked at his confirmation hearing about locally grown foods, Vilsack said, “I guarantee you that we will be very aggressive in this area.”