The movement to convince President-elect Barack Obama to name a reformer as secretary of agriculture (or a re-named “secretary of food”) just got some clout, with a New York Times columnist now pushing it.
It could be he will—he seems very much the pragmatist. At the same time, though, many raw milk consumers and producers alike have been wondering how the President-elect feels about raw milk, one of the more contentious food/agriculture issues around. And in this arena, I’m afraid I have bad news: he sides with the FDA. Or let’s put it this way: he did as of the summer of 2007.
That summer, a number of raw milk advocates, led by Aajonus Vonderplanitz, spent much time in Washington, lobbying legislators. They eventually succeeded in convincing Rep. Ron Paul to introduce legislation lifting the ban on interstate shipments of raw milk–a story I recounted here.
One advocate wrote to then-Senator Obama asking for his support. Aajonus provided me with the text of the response, and Obama’s answer actually begins hopefully:
“As you well know, raw milk is rich in protein and fat, and research continues to demonstrate the necessity of a nutrient-rich diet for good health.”
Then comes the “but” material, and the crux of his answer: “However, the potential risks presented by disease-causing bacteria, from E.coli to salmonella, raise serious concerns about raw milk’s viability in commercial markets. I understand your distaste for unnecessary federal regulations. At the same time, the FDA has a responsibility to provide consumer protection.”
Now, you can say that a staff member likely wrote this, and that Obama probably didn’t give it a lot of thought. Yet, as my original posting on Aajonus’ summer campaign makes clear, Obama wasn’t responding to an isolated request, but as a result of a concerted effort in which all legislators were contacted, and some eventually did express support.
You can also argue that he might change his mind. After all, he does seem like a reasonable guy. And miracles do occur every once in a while. Unfortunately, they’re not something you can count on.
All Obama’s statements and all his appointments thus far suggest he’s a big-government guy. We can’t allow the American auto industry to fail, he says. Why not? We just can’t. Same for the banking industry, the insurance industry, the mortgage industry, and every big industry that comes hat in hand seeking a multibillion dollar handout.
The President-elect may even be a super-big-government guy. There’s a movement afoot in Europe for a “world government” to tackle the big problems of climate change and financial collapse. According to a senior correspondent at the Financial Times, Barack Obama is favorably disposed.
If you think the FDA and USDA are tough, I suspect they’d look downright soft and cuddly next to a world government making decisions about what we can, and can’t, eat.
I hate to be super negative about this guy before he takes office, and I’m sure he will push constructive initiatives on energy and a few other areas. His predisposition to favor the regulators, though, isn’t encouraging.