The food blogosphere is all a-twitter: According to Jim Slama of familyfarmed.org, “Local and sustainable food advocates are smiling these days as signals out of Washington indicate major new support for their efforts. The biggest news was the announcement that long-time organic advocate Kathleen Merrigan had been tapped to become the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, the number two position at the USDA. As an aid to Senator Patrick Leahy, Merrigan was the major force behind the Organic Food Production Act which recognized and regulated organic farming…This follows the decision by Obama to hire their Chicago personal cook, Sam Kass as assistant chef in the White House kitchen…Kass is known for his strong support for local and organic foods…Kass’ impact on the First Family may already be taking root. At a visit to the United States Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, First Lady Michelle Obama brought a Magnolia tree to be planted in their new garden. The garden replaces a blacktop parking lot and will include fruits and vegetables, some of which will be provided to local soup kitchens. Mrs. Obama praised a just announced program at the USDA that will be planting such gardens in all their facilities worldwide. “I’m a big believer in Community Gardens,” she said, “both because of their beauty and for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across the nation and the world.”
But according to Obama Foodarama (“A Daily Diary of The Obama Foodscape, One Bipartisan Byte At A Time”) our new Secretary of Ag is a big schmuck, and “USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service Public Affairs Team Leader Terry Bish confirmed that in fact, the pavement busting was a Birthday Bicentennial publicity stunt on the part of Secretary Vilsack, and the garden initially had nothing to do with food”. The Obama Foodarama blog is a useful resource for analysis about Obama administration food and agriculture policy, including articles analyzing the new budget’s proposed cuts of farm subsidies.