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Organic Bytes: OCA's Bi-Weekly Email Publication, 12/4/08:

It's one of the most powerful positions in DC. The Secretary of Agriculture oversees the safety of the U.S. food supply, domestic farming policies, food stamp programs, and the nation's 297,000 square miles of forest.

Obama was initially considering the pro-biotech Iowa governor Tom Vilsack for the position, but then thousands of organic consumers raised their voices in response to an OCA alert that apparently stopped that plan in its tracks.
 
According to press reports, Obama is now considering Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to head the USDA. Peterson, like Vilsack, is a strong biotech supporter, head of the House Agriculture Committee, and a man who categorized organic consumers as "dumb" last year.
 
The Obama Transition Team has set-up an innovative website to facilitate public input for policy initiatives in the new Obama Administration. Please take the time to share your insights and opinions, or paste in the letter below: http://change.gov/page/content/contact/

Send a letter to  encourage President-Elect Obama to select a Secretary of Agriculture who looks forward to a sustainable future!
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Dear President-Elect Obama,
  
The sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community supported  you in record numbers during the election because of the family  farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your  campaign.
  
As our nation's future president, we hope that you will take our  concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture  because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in -
  
1. Revitalizing our rural economy through investment in sustainable  agricultural practices
  
2. Protecting our nation's and the world's food supply and environment by redirecting government attention and funding away from genetically modified organisms, agricultural chemicals, monoculture and factory farms, towards truly affordable, sustainable models of  agriculture.
  
3. Promoting fair trade and local biodiversity around the world to prevent food shortages and hunger, and create self-sufficiency in every nation.
  
4. Protecting human health through chemical-free agriculture and abundant, nutritious food, using the knowledge that an ounce of prevention  is worth a pound of cure.
  
5. Supporting the independent family farmer, not just in words, but  in deeds that open new markets for their products
  
6. Creating a renewable energy future that does not depend on  genetically engineered crops.
  
7. Supporting organic agriculture
  
With these goals in mind, we are  offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated an understanding of the  principles that you articulated during your campaign, and we encourage you    to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture. A commitment to  sustainable agriculture and fair trade will help to restore America‚Äôs  standing in the world as the guarantor of the dignity of human  life.   

The Sustainable Choices for the Next U.S. Secretary of    Agriculture
  
*Gus Schumacher, Former Under-Secretary of  Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of    Agriculture.

*Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.

*Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.

*Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and  President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.

*Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota's Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

*Neil  Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake  University, Des Moines, IA.

*Tom Buis, President of the National  Farmers Union since March 1998. Served for nearly  five years as senior agriculture policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. and special assistant for agriculture to U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind. Buis was a full-time  grain and livestock farmer in Putnam and Morgan Counties in West Central Indiana. Member of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) executive committee, representing more than 600 million farm  families.

*Jim  Riddle, organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, and author. Founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), co-author of the International Organic Inspection Manual. Riddle holds the endowed chair of Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota and is chair of the National Organic Standards  Board, which advises the USDA on organic agriculture policies and  regulations.

Act now!
  
Send this letter to the Obama Transition Team. Copy this letter and paste it in the form at http://change.gov/page/content/contact/

In the subject line write "Attn:  Department of Agriculture Review Team Leader Bart Chilton"