Commentary: Vilsack doesn't represent change

This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.

What happened to change we can believe in?

That was the question that buzzed around last week, after President-elect Barack Obama announced Tom Vilsack as his pick for Secretary of Agriculture.

A former governor of Iowa, Vilsack represents the large agribusiness interests that have held sway over the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you've been paying attention to the news since his nomination, you've heard that Vilsack was named governor of the year in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He's a distinguished fellow in Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products.Click here to find out more!

And he's an ardent supporter of ethanol, a fuel tied to food prices that skyrocketed this year. (Just how much biofuels influenced food prices is a hotly debated topic.)

For all of his talk about arugula and Whole Foods Market, Obama's choice for ag secretary proved he's still a Midwestern politician.

Vilsack's expected confirmation would give Iowans lots of influence over the nation's agriculture policies. Tom Harkin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, is also from Iowa.

As my colleague Michael Doyle shrewdly noted in a story last week, "Vilsack is well-rooted in Midwestern commodities but not in the bounty from states such as California and Florida. Specialty crop growers consequently will keep lobbying to buttress the new farm chief with their allies."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.