From what I can see it seems like a very bad idea. Another way of putting it is that it is more of the same, that Obama really isn't into change in this area other then as a campaign slogan.
The article, by Sharon Astyk (self described "small farmer, teacher and writer living in upstate NY") is here.
The author raises many good questions like:
Tom Vilsack is going to be secretary of agriculture, hmmm ... Let's see, ethanol proponent, enthusiastic supporter of GMOs and biotechnologies, and political debtor to agribusiness. Yup, it seems clear that Obama really took Michael Pollan's "Farmer in Chief" piece to heart. Short of actually appointing, say, Monsanto's chairman, it is hard to imagine a choice less likely to make real shifts in our food system.
Then she points out the real downer:
Obama couldn't possibly come to power without indebting himself to people who are more invested in the status quo than in improving lives.
So all those 11 months of campaigning were just theater? The hope that was raised was simply a feel good way to get out the vote?
For a president that speaks so much about the environment and the urgent need to make changes the Department of Agriculture should be the first place to start. Of course suggesting that Iowa abandon corn and its subsidies and its disastrous affect on our land (fossil fuel based pesticides, genetically modified seeds, fossil fuel based fertilizers, etc) isn't apparently going to start any time soon, even though sustainable family farms are far better stewards of the land and organic farms produce healthier, more nutritious food, in greater abundance.
For us to seriously tackle global warming we have to change the way we grow food and raise animals. This isn't something that can wait. Sadly, I seem to be in the minority here in the U.S., because all people seem to really want is "cheap" and they don't care if "cheap" makes them fat, gives them diabetes, or ruins the Earth for their children.
Healthy, sustainable food is not intrinsically expensive. It doesn't even have to be organic, it can just be local.
American farmers need our help and they need change they can truly believe in and they need them now. We all do.
Finally, at the end of Ms. Astyk's article there were numerous comments, the one I think is probably closest to reality doesn't make me happy and ends with urging us to have "patience." This made me want to scream WE HAVE NO TIME LEFT FOR PATIENCE, we've sat through 8 years of incompetence and time is running out. This issue is not a side priority, but it looks like we'll have to wait another 4 years before we get true change in this area. Before I get any more worked up let me share this comment with you in full:
Buying off Iowa 2012
We can be dang sure that Obama is going to pee in some special interests cornflakes because if he doesn't he might as well hand the White House to Jeb Bush in 2012.
So he's decided to buy off the Iowa primary now and get it over with. The majority of the US doesn't understand ag policy and doesn't care as long as the price of milk, eggs, beef and chicken remain affordable. That means corn, lots of it, subsidized by the USDA.That ag policy fish fry isn't going to happen till 2013 at least when he can pull out his veto pen and beat up on Congress a little. Right now it's just a dream of enviro's that won't see the light of day. Patience.