Tricounty News

Secretary of Agriculture must be devoted to innovative vision

Barack Obama launched his campaign in Iowa with a promise to create genuine opportunity for rural people and a better future for their communities. Now President-elect Obama must appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who embraces the change needed to achieve those goals.  Farm and rural policy illustrate the broken politics of Washington. The federal government spends billions subsidizing mega-farms to drive smaller farms off the land and largely fails to invest in the future of rural communities. Barack Obama proposed changing those failed policies. He proposed capping payments to mega farms and enforcing rules against unfair pricing practices by meat packers to strengthen family size farms. To revitalize rural communities, he proposed investing in small business, microenterprise development and value-added agriculture. He proposed increased production of biofuels and wind energy. And he pledged support for protecting our land and water through the Conservation Stewardship Program, which rewards farmers for good practices. These reforms run head-on into demands for new spending by big farm and commodity interests. The president's commitment is most critical to achieving reform, but his Secretary of Agriculture is almost as important. A secretary committed to the status quo will not help Obama achieve change. The new president should start with one simple test for those who would be Secretary of Agriculture. Have they worked for the rural agenda on which he campaigned and are they committed to advancing it when he takes office in January? For more information visit www.cfra.org. Chuck Hasselbrook, Center for Rural Affairs