Friday, December 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Obama on the next Secretary of Agriculture

The following letter is signed by
Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Marion Nestle and Bill McKibben,
among others.

They suggest some people they think would be good for the next Secretary of Agriculture:

# Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
# Chuck Hassebrook, executive director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Neb.
# Sarah Vogel, former Commissioner of Agriculture for North Dakota, lawyer, Bismarck, N.D.
# Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, and president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
# Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy.
# Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Jim Barton


Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election
promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural
advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary
and general election because of the family farm-friendly p olicies that you advocated
during your campaign.

As our nation's future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under
advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial
role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation's
food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the
independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact
on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision
for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and
land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies
that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system
unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the
allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of
corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health
implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to
issues of fo od safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next
Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for:
• recreating regional food systems,
• supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and
• protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker's rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that
of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive
action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a
new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy
production that revitalizes our nation's soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities
for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation's growing health
problems by promoting a children's school lunch program that incorporates more healthy
food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from
local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices.
We recognize that our children's health is our nation's future and that currently schools
are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to inve st
in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on
childhood education as a child's health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and
policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more
conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the
next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting
sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy
future for all of America's citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment
to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider
them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.


1. David Murphy, Clear Lake, IA
2. Paul Willis, Thornton, IA
3. Michael Pollan, Berkeley, CA
4. Bill Niman, Bolinas, CA
5. Nicolette Hahn Niman, Bolinas, CA
6. Diane Halverson, Northfield, MN
7. Marlene Halverson, Northfield, MN
8. Aaron Woolf, Elizabethtown, NY
9. Judy Wicks, Philadelphia, PA
10. Wendy Wasserman, Iowa City, IA
11. Anna Lappé, Brooklyn, NY
12. Cornelia Butler Flora, Ames, IA
13. Eleanor Bertino, San Francisco, CA
14. Wes Jackson, Salina, KS
15. Wendell Berry, Port Royal, KY
16. Alice Waters, Berkeley, CA
17. Marion Nestle, New York, NY
18. Bill McKibben, Middlebury, VT
19. Rick Dove, New Bern, NC
20. Ann Cooper, Berkeley, CA
21. Michel Nischan, Fairfield, CT
22. Jerry DeWitt, Ames, IA
23. Michael Dimock, San Francisco, CA
24. Jim Harkness, Minneapolis, MN
25. Frank Reese, Lindsborg, KS
26. Jeff Odefey, Irvington, NY
27. Cathy Liss, Alexandria, VA
28. Eric Schlosser, Monterey, CA
29. Leigh Adcock, Ames, IA
30. Dan Barber, Pocantico Hills, NY
31. Francis Thicke, Fairfield, IA
32. Josh Viertel, Brooklyn, NY
33. Peter Hoffman, New York, NY
34. Tom Philpott, Valle Crucis, NC
35. Hillary Wilson, Valle Crucis, NC
36. Dan Imhoff, Healdsburg, CA
37. Michael Stumo, Sheffield, MA
38. Simran Sethi, Lawrence, KS
39. Lisa Stokke, Clear Lake, IA
40. Sarah Willis, Thornton, IA
41. Peter Kaminsky, Brooklyn, NY
42. Kurt Michael Friese, Iowa City, IA
43. Carl Safina, Stony Brook, NY
44. Anthony Garrett, Washington, DC
45. Eliza Maclean, Snow Camp, NC
46. Odessa Piper, Silver Spring, MD
47. Edward Behr, Barnet, VT
48. Phyllis Willis, Thornton, IA
49. Larry Cleverley, Mingo, IA
50. Jesse Ziff Cool, Menlo Park, CA
51. Curt Ellis, Austin, TX
52. Wenonah Hauter, Washington, D C
53. Patty Lovera, Washington, DC
54. John Ikerd, Columbia, MO
55. Lucia Watson, Minneapolis, MN
56. Deborah Madison, Galisteo, NM
57. George DeVault, Decorah, IA
58. Melanie DeVault, Decorah, IA
59. Andrea King Collier, Lansing, MI
60. Rosiland Creasy, Los Altos, CA
61. John Jeavons, Willits, CA
62. Samuel Fromartz, Washington DC
63. Frances Moore Lappe, Cambridge, MA
64. Denise O'Brien, Atlantic, IA
65. Arnell Hinkle, Berkeley, CA
66. Marjie Bender, Pittsboro, NC
67. Winona LaDuke, Ponsford, MN
68. Diane Hatz, New York, NY
69. Cory Schreiber, Portland, OR
70. Rick Bayless, Chicago, IL
71. Angie Tagtow, Elkhart, IA
72. Ralph Paige, East Point, GA
73. Clara Bingham, New York, NY
74. Arie McFarlen, Dell Rapids, SD
75. Bret Kortie, Dell Rapids, SD
76. Dwight Ault, Austin, MN
77. Amy P. Goldman, Rhinebeck, NY
78. Judith LaBelle, New York, NY
79. Patrick Martins, New York, NY
80. Mary Berry Smith, New Castle, KY
81. John Fisk, East Lansing, MI
82. Tim LaSalle, Kutztown, PA
83. Susan Stokes, St. Paul, MN
84. Jude Becker, Dyersville, IA

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