Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has become a member of the shortlist of viable candidates to join the Democratic Presidential ticket alongside Hilary Clinton. According to his USDA profile, he’s currently serving as the 30th Secretary of Agriculture. Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
Now just for the sake of clarity and full-disclosure, I’ll air out my Iowa origins, born not necessarily raised. This background certainly has given me a unique connection to agriculture and the farming community, although I haven’t had much first hand experience. That being said, as a Midwesterner and someone concerned with the future of our food systems and the background role these issues often have taken in our political and legislative realms, this choice could bring them quickly to the forefront. To reiterate my bias here is not in favor of Sec. Vilsack being the most favorable choice, but to clearly consider the impact and precedent his nomination as the Vice Presidential candidate.
Vilsack of course is a far cry from a champion of organics as many see Bernie Sanders, but it would be foolish to take for granted the opportunities that could be created. You can certainly get swept up in the headlines of his association with what many see as the evil “Factory Ag”-giant Monsanto, but you would be remiss to do so without other considerations.
I do not blindly support the use of any chemicals that have not been factually or scientifically deemed safe to ingest. I also do not blindly support the “guilty until proven innocent” approach of processes that naturally occur without chemicals and have been vilified because of their moniker including selective breeding and genetically-modified. Without delving further into this topic (save that for another day) let’s embrace at the very least the possibility that an individual with first-hand experience and knowledge of agriculture could be elected.
With food policy becoming less of a necessary front-page issue, it has now become critical. With food insecurity and food waste reaching incredibly alarming and contradictory rates it is time that serious solutions be evaluated and implemented.
I had the pleasure to attend The Food Tank Summit in Washington D.C. this past April which included a keynote from Sec. Vilsack. Unfortunately the sentiment in recognizing the magnitude of his presence and acknowledgement of the work and issues being discussed was not unanimously appreciative. Despite his promotion of USDA programs to assist new farmers and existing farmers wanting to transition to organic production through grants, there were still cries of foul. It did my heart and head good, when Food Tank Founder Danielle Nierenberg made it a point to address how significant is was to have Sec. Vilsack join the conference whether or not you completely align with him politically.
I want to leave you with and echo of that thought, whether or not you believe you agree with Sec. Vilsack ideologically, don’t let that influence you pass up the opportunity of having an agriculturally conscious representative in the White House.
Let’s take food back to the forefront and create uncommon collaboration!