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Enough with the first 100 days of President Obama. What about the first 100 days of Vilsack? Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa Governor, took over the Agriculture Department, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and foodies, who saw him as a shill for big ag. But Philip Brasher, writing in the Des Moines Register, tells that in his first 100 days “Vilsack has surprised his early detractors, who feared he would be too close to agribusiness.”
How’s that? Well, Vilsack started an organic veggie garden in front of the Ag Department building. (And worked with Michelle Obama to break some ground at the White House, above.) He appointed Kathleen Merrigan (who helped create the national program for certifying organic food) as deputy secretary. He also proposed a cut in subsidies, saying the money was needed to feed hungry children. At the same time, Vilsack has pushed the government to increase the use of corn ethanol in gasoline. “He has a much broader understanding of agriculture and food systems than I think some of his critics had expected,” Ben Lilliston of the Institute for Agriculture and Food Policy told Brasher.
“To me it isn’t about either-or,” Vilsack told Brasher. “It’s about how do you figure out ways for folks to co-exist and how do you figure how to take the best of all of it and move an agenda forward that repopulates the rural community, that focuses on good stewardship, on sustainability, on getting the most of our resources.”