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NEXT U.S. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Can food & farm folks get ahead of the curve this time?

For decades of presidential cabinet appointments, the Secretary of Agriculture has often been one of the last, almost as an afterthought.  I would say that August 2020 is not too soon to start thinking about who our next USDA Secretary will or should be—and not too soon to get some names out to the public, the media, and to the Biden-Harris team.

Last week, a great article was posted on the oldest and largest U.S. food & farm listserv, COMFOOD. “Farmers Reject Biden’s Pro-Corporate Rural Advisers” contains many of the reasons why 35 years ago a rural-suburban-urban coalition was formed to represent food and farm, farmers and consumers, not only corporate money.

I took this article as a wake-up call to start thinking about who does the food & farm movement want to advise Biden & Harris, both before and after the election?

On August 21, 2020, I posted this call to acton to two of the national listservs.

U.S. FOOD & FARM POLICY: 2020 Presidential Elections

To:-
— Robert Martin – Director, Food System PolicyJohns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
—COMFOOD listerv (Tufts University)
—Food Policy Networks (FPN) listserv (Johns Hopkins University)

I echo those who gave the thumbs-up on the article that you posted the other day on COMFOOD. David Dayen is someone to follow, especially regarding corporate corruption and corporate bullying. 

I’m copying Food Policy Networks because, so far as I know, FPN is the listserv most dedicated to food & farm POLICY (through food policy councils at the state & local levels). My reason for emphasizing policy derives from the article and is explicated in the rest of my comments.

Article posted by Bob Martin (Johns Hopkins) — August 17, 2020
Farmers Reject Biden’s Pro-Corporate Rural Advisers
by David Dayen
Heidi Heitkamp and Tom Vilsack are promoting a failed strategy for rural America. Biden would win support if he broke from that and took on Big Ag

If farmers reject Heitkamp and Vilsack as advisers to Biden, I’d like to suggest the obvious next step: identifying and promoting our own food & farm advisers. There’s also an obvious follow-up step: promoting a short list of food & farm candidates for the next USDA Secretary. 

A. Pro-Food & Farm Advisers: August 21-Nov. 3, 2020

Who would the food & farm movement recommend to be advisers to Biden & Harris right this minute, to craft & promote the best food & farm platform before the election?

Presumably some of our colleagues are already trying to advise the Biden team. But I don’t know who they are and I don’t know what food & farm agenda they promote. So, I’m wondering:
–What individual(s) and/or what organization(s) do we as a collective trust to represent the food & farm movement to Biden & Harris?
–Is there a short version of our food & farm agenda that we all agree on? (e.g., 5-10 points, non-negotiables, one page)
–Do we want to publicly identify and empower such advisers?
–In terms of getting Biden-Harris to adopt a food & farm agenda, is it better to speak in one voice for one agenda (like the Farm Bureau) or multiple voices with multiple but related agendas? 

Or, is it too late to impact the platform, and should we just move onto the next USDA Secretary?

B. Next USDA Secretary (2021-24)

For decades of presidential cabinet appointments, the Secretary of Agriculture has often been one of the last, almost as an afterthought. I would say that August 2020 is not too soon to start thinking about who our next USDA Secretary will or should be—and not too soon to get some names out to the public, the media, and to the Biden-Harris team.

I would suggest that the food & farm movement start making two lists:
1. A list of qualifications for the next USDA Secretary from the perspective of the food & farm movement
2. A list of qualified people (based on List #1). 

How to proceed?
In the name of real democracy, I would recommend that these processes be as public and inclusive as possible.

Perhaps someone or some organization would volunteer to organize one or the other of these two processes—or both.(I might be able to help, but I can’t make a huge commitment as I’m likely two months from being homeless.)

Alternatives?
Is there a better way to get our national food & farm policy agenda considered and/or adopted (a) by the Biden-Harris team, (b) by the general public, and (c) by the media?