Friday, January 16, 2009

Vilsack's conformation hearing a virtual love fest

At least that is how it sounded from NPR's report yesterday. Listen here. On NPR's website, the headline for Howard Berkes' story, "Vilsack Hearing: More Coronation than Confirmation," reflects the tenor of the hearing before a committee composed of so-called farm state Senators. Of course, those senators bias toward production agriculture (note U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln's invocation of farm families in her comments) contrasts significantly with the views of the "food and evil" set (a phrase I borrow from Dean Jim Chen), who would like to see the USDA more in a very different direction.

Here's an excerpt from Andrew Martin's story in the New York Times story about the confirmation hearing:

If the members of the Senate agriculture committee were surprised or disappointed by Mr. Vilsack’s answers, they did not show it. Mr. Vilsack sailed through the confirmation hearing with nary a word of criticism, and Chairman Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said he expected Mr. Vilsack to be confirmed unanimously Tuesday.

If confirmed, Mr. Vilsack, who briefly ran for president in 2008, would inherit a huge bureaucracy that oversees not just farm programs but also nutrition initiatives like school lunch and food stamps, meat and poultry inspections and the forest service.

In his comments before the commitee in support of "renewable fuels," Vilsack mentioned rural communities, along with farmers and ranchers, as among the constituents that USDA serves.

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