Our View: Ag Secretary, Obama and Congress

We're all headed out of here for the holiday weekend. Before I go though, I'll leave you with a collection of pieces written by or featuring Center staff on the topic of what opportunities are offered by the new President and new Congress on issues that matter to rural America.

Obama Needs Ag Secretary Committed to New Vision
By Chuck Hassebrook | Des Moines Register

Barack Obama launched his campaign in Iowa with a promise to change farm and rural policy to create genuine opportunity for rural people and a better future for their communities. It was the best rural platform and best vision for changing farm and rural policy that I have seen in 30 years as a rural advocate. Now President-elect Obama must appoint a secretary of agriculture who embraces that change, or it will fall victim to the politics of Washington. Read the full guest opinion here.

How Will An Urban President Handle Farm Policy?
By Howard Berkes | National Public Radio

President-elect Barack Obama's past as an urban community organizer in Chicago makes some wonder how he could relate to farmers, ranchers and other rural people. "The most important thing the president could do is simply to stop subsidizing megafarms that drive smaller operations out of business," says Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based advocacy group focused on small and family farmers. Listen to or read the full story from Sunday's Weekend Edition.

Wait An Ag Sec: Getting Real About Who Will Head the USDA
By Steph Larsen | The Ethicurean

The excitement of the recent election has worn off. In its place, a new horse race has emerged. The media is now obsessed with who President-elect Obama will pick to help lead his government of change. We in the sustainable food, rural and agriculture community are particularly susceptible to this when it comes to suggesting nominees for Secretary of Agriculture. In our enthusiasm, however, there is a tendency of some to lose their heads and forget that, new era or not, this is still politics and the rules still apply. Read an analysis of the process and list of the leading candidates.

Building the New Rural West
By Brian Depew | New West

As newly elected legislators prepare to join returning Westerners in the halls of Congress, they have an opportunity to help build a new economy in the rural West. By supporting programs that unlock the entrepreneurial spirit of rural America, Western legislators can deliver on their promise to create opportunity for rural communities in their states. Read how a new congress can support rural small businesses.

Prescription for Health Care
By Elisha Greeley Smith | The Chadron Record

One of the most important things Congress will deal with in 2009 is health care reform. The 60 million people in rural America have much to gain, and much to lose, in any debate over reform of the health care system. Rural America presents a unique set of challenges for health care reform. Rural people have less access to health networks and health care providers, greater rates of disability and chronic diseases and higher use rates of all public health care programs. Read the full piece about health care reform.

A Different View of Vilsack
By John Crabtree | Blog for Rural America

I have known Governor Vilsack for over a decade. Considering all the ongoing speculation and critique of the former Governor, I thought I should weigh in. There are a lot of questions that one might ask a potential Secretary of Agriculture. I picked three. Read the report on Governor Vlisack's answers to questions about farm policy reform, biotechnology and livestock market reform.

And with that, happy Thanksgiving!

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