retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post carries an interview with Tom Vilsack, the new US Secretary of Agriculture, in which he says that “this is a department that intersects the lives of Americans two to three times a day. Every single American. So I absolutely see the constituency of this department as broader than those who produce our food -- it extends to those who consume it."

The Post writes, “With President Obama at the government's helm, food activists have begun drafting policy wish lists calling for more nutritious food in schools, money for school gardens, and incentives and support for small producers who find it difficult to compete with industrial-size farms.

“Vilsack was cautious about outlining detailed proposals; he has yet to appoint a deputy secretary or the heads of key agencies such as the Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees the food stamp program, or the Food Safety and Inspection Service, charged with protecting the meat, poultry and egg supply.” But there seems to be little doubt about what his priorities are.

And, Vilsack says, “We want to make a better connection between what kids eat and knowing where it comes from. I've seen it in my own family. If you educate kids at an early age, you can have a tremendous impact."

The Post notes that this “is a significant departure from the traditional view of the USDA, which historically has emphasized programs that support commercial farming, such as price guarantees for crops and marketing promotions for exports.”

KC's View:
The Post is correct in this. Which is why consumer confidence is diminishing. What Vilsack hopefully realizes is that a better informed and more confident consumer actually is good for industry.