Congress - have traditionally been handed over to industrial farming
interests by Democrats and Republicans alike. The farm lobby uses that
perch to inflict unhealthy food on American children in school-lunch
programs, exacerbating our national crisis with diabetes and obesity.
But let's be clear. The problem isn't farmers. It's the farm lobby -
hijacked by industrial operators - and a bipartisan tradition of
kowtowing to it.
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
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.
An online petition that can be found at www.fooddemocracynow.org calls
for a reformist pick for agriculture secretary - and names six
terrific candidates, such as Chuck Hassebrook, a reformer in Nebraska.
On several occasions in the campaign, Mr. Obama made comments showing
a deep understanding of food issues, but the names that people in the
food industry say are under consideration for agriculture secretary
represent the problem more than the solution.
The most powerful signal Mr. Obama could send would be to name a
reformer to a renamed position. A former secretary of agriculture,
John Block, said publicly the other day that the agency should be
renamed "the Department of Food, Agriculture and Forestry." And
another, Ann Veneman, told me that she believes it should be renamed,
"Department of Food and Agriculture." I'd prefer to see simply
"Department of Food," giving primacy to America's 300 million eaters.
-- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times