New Ag Secretary Discusses Child Nutrition, Health Care in Address to USDA Employees

New Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, discussed the difficult economic issues facing the country, discrimination at the USDA, and health care and nutrition issues yesterday in a wide-ranging address to USDA employees. “The health care issue is a big issue…that’s why it’s important to promote a nutritious diet…and make sure children have access to healthy foods,” he told a packed audience. In a question and answer session following his remarks, he alluded to an article, “Farmer in Chief,” published last October in the New York Times by Author Michael Pollan. “If it had been president Pollan, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” he joked. Many comments in the press and blogs following his nomination were critical of Vilsak’s ties to big agriculture interests, particularly the biofuel industry. He appeared to be sensitive to that in answering the question saying, “We have to listen to critics and criticism of the food system in this country,” adding, “We have without question an epidemic of juvenile diabetes. If we’re interested in making sure our resources are spent wisely….we have to address this issue.” There’s a short piece in today’s Des Moines Register about his address and a full video clip available on USDA’s web site.

-Chris Stevens