How Well Will the Obama Administration Handle Food Issues?

We all project our hopes and dreams onto Obama. I just think in this case we're setting ourselves up for disappointment.

20090112-obama.jpgMany serious eaters have high hopes for the Obama administration when it comes to food matters. They think he will champion Michael Pollan–like causes, such as local, organic, and sustainable food, along with a farm bill that Pollan and company will approve of. With his inauguration a week away it's time to ask the following essential food question: Are those hopes realistic or misplaced?

Food Not a High Priority for Obama

I think the evidence shows these hopes to be misplaced. Or at the very least we should recognize that food issues are not very high on Barack Obama's priority list.

Look at the evidence, after the jump.

  • Obama didn't show any inclination to champion family-farm-friendly, sustainably raised and grown food as a senator or as a candidate. In fact, his support of ethanol subsidies in Iowa played a large part in his winning the caucus there
  • He named former Iowa governor and ethanol champion Tom Vilsack as his Secretary of Agriculture. Iowa is an agribusiness-oriented state that has not produced a model for sustaining family farms
  • Obama deflected efforts to name a Pollan-approved Secretary of Agriculture. He didn't heed Danny Meyer, Ruth Reichl, and Alice Waters' efforts to help him choose a White House chef whose food politics reflect theirs
  • Just because he eats his anniversary meals at Spiaggia doesn't mean he's a foodie or truly concerned about the issues confronting serious eaters everywhere. Obama's got bigger fish to fry, and I don't mean locally caught flounder

He may eventually get to the issues we all care about—food safety, family farms, and sustainability—but for now he's got the economy as a whole and major foreign policy matters to attend to. I'm afraid we're going to have to wait our turn. I wish it weren't so, but it's hard to envision any other scenario.

We all project our hopes and dreams onto Obama. I just think in this case we're setting ourselves up for disappointment. Which means it will once again be up to all of us to advocate a sensible, healthy, and sustainable food policy.

What say you, serious eaters? Is Barack Obama a foodie?


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