December 12, 2008

Move Over Ag, We Need a Secretary of Food

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff addressed President-elect Obama’s soon-to-be-made choice for Secretary of Agriculture, asking whether or not a “U.S. Department of Food” would better reflect the change our country needs to see realized in our food policy. 

Kristoff notes that “a Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming.  But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers.  In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.”  As such, what we need now “is actually a bold reformer in a position renamed ‘secretary of food.'”

He goes on to address many of the concerns CLF’s scholars have raised about the nation’s food and farming system:  “Modern confinement operations are less like farms than like meat assembly lines.  They are dazzlingly efficient in some ways, but they use vast amounts of grain, as well as low-level antibiotics to reduce infections – and the result is a public health threat from antibiotic-resistant infection.”

“An industrial farm with 5,000 hogs produces as much waste as a town with 20,000 people.  But while the town is required to have a sewage system, the industrial farm isn’t….The need for change is increasingly obvious, for health, climate and even humanitarian reasons.”

Click here to read Kristoff’s full editorial, Obama’s Secretary of Food? 

It remains to be seen what level of reform the Obama Administration will choose to pursue on such critically intertwined food, agriculture and environmental issues.  This first choice has the potential to be a vital step in the right direction for real change.  



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