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A letter to President-elect Barack Obama urges him to take a consumer-oriented approach when appointing leadership for the Us Department of Agriculture, and even urges Obama to even change the name of the department to better reflect the agency’s current mission.

The letter was signed by Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention; Center for Science in the Public Interest; Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; Food & Water Watch; Government Accountability Project; Safe Tables Our Priority; Union of Concerned Scientists.


Dear President-Elect Obama:

The undersigned organizations write to ask that you appoint as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture an individual who embraces the diversity of programs administered by the Department and accepts the responsibility for representing the interests of all Americans, urban as well as rural, consumers as well as producers…

The agenda waiting on the desk of the new Secretary will include issues of great concern that go far beyond the interests of commodity producers. The Government Accountability Office recently identified food safety as one of thirteen “urgent issues” needing the attention of your Administration. USDA has responsibility for assuring the safety of the nation’s meat, poultry, and processed egg supply and the Secretary must lead the way in addressing this urgent issue … Frequently, the actions and funds needed to assure food safety, good nutrition, and environmental preservation have at least short-term costs for production agriculture, food manufacturers, and restaurants. Historically, the Department has often opted to put the interests of production agriculture and industry ahead of those other responsibilities.

We are concerned that many of the names mentioned in the media as currently under consideration for Secretary of Agriculture are individuals whose primary qualification for the position is their knowledge of and interest in production agriculture and commodity programs. It is critical that the candidate for Secretary of Agriculture have experience with or have been an advocate for USDA’s nutrition, conservation and food safety programs and have had experience providing leadership to a large and diverse organization.

When the Department of Agriculture was created during the Presidency of Abraham
Lincoln, he called it the “people’s department.” We urge you to return the Department to that role by changing its name to reflect its multiple missions. We suggest you rename it the Department of Food, Agriculture and Forestry or, simply, the Department of Food and appoint a Secretary who sees his or her constituency as all the people who eat as well as those who produce.

KC's View:
These are recommendation that seem to make sense. The world has changed, and government ought to be flexible enough to recognize new realities.