Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

Obama's new Agriculture secretary has already made some steps to promote local food. First, is a stricter interpretation of a labeling directive in the last farm bill. Mexico and Canada both oppose such "country of origin" labels, since meat packers can now mix US and foreign meat without notifying consumers. I fully support free trade - and have large reservations about 'Buy American' laws. This, however, only gives the consumer information. The consumer can make the choice to support the producer he wishes, rather than being left in the dark.

The labeling requirements, which would apply to fresh meats and some perishable fruits and vegetables, have long been debated in Congress. While the meat industry and retailers responsible for the labels have protested the changes — saying they are burdensome and could lead to higher prices — consumer groups and northern state ranchers who compete with the Canadian beef industry favor them.
Another interesting step is to create community garden projects at all USDA facilities worldwide.
During today's ceremony, Secretary Vilsack announced the goal of creating a community garden at each USDA facility worldwide. The USDA community garden project will include a wide variety of garden activities including Embassy window boxes, tree planting, and field office plots. The gardens will be designed to promote "going green" concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices.
The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer's Market.

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