Skip to content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer

Presidential Politics: Update for food & farm activists

This update contains 5 topics relevant to Food + Farms + Democracy as our work is reflected in the 2020 campaign for U.S. president:

1. IMPEACH & REMOVE RALLIES (tonight Dec. 17)
2. DEMOCRATIC DEBATE: Threat of Sodexo strike

Sent to three food & farm listservs on Dec. 17, 2019
COMFOOD (Tufts Univ.)
FPN Food Policy Networks (Johns Hopkins U.)
Regeneration Midwest (12 Midwestern states)

1. IMPEACH & REMOVE rallies tonight (Dec. 17)

Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on two articles of impeachment addressing the corruption, the threat of a dictatorship, and our inability to make progress on anything of value to the planet, our local communities (rural-suburban-urban), and for food-and-farm justice while Trump is in office.

TONIGHT 600+ “Nobody is above the Law” rallies are scheduled in all 50 states to support our Representatives in voting for the Articles of Impeachment and our Senators to convict.

Map of all events
Most rallies are scheduled for 5:30 PM local time. 

2. DEMOCRATIC DEBATE: Threat of Sodexo strike makes a difference

This Thursday’s debate for Democratic presidential candidates was seriously threatened by a strike of food service workers at Loyola Marymount College (Los Angeles). All debate participants promised not to cross the picket line.

As of this morning, it seems that an agreement has been reached (to restart talks in January) and the debate will take place. The New York Times is the only article I could find with the latest news. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall. Here’s the link for those of you with subscriptions.


Civil Eats seems to have the most comprehensive information on most candidates’ platforms, including all Republican and Democratic candidates. 

Unfortunately, they’re not covering active independent candidates, such as Mark Charles. He is starting to post platform information. This is not an endorsement of his candidacy, but I think his messaging and background (as applies to food sovereignty and the environment) warrants inclusion.

a. Civil Eats  
Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Food and Farming

b. Mark Charles: Independent candidate, Navajo/Dutch
Policies currently listed:
–Second Amendment

4. SECRETARIES OF AGRICULTURE  (USDA & state secretaries)

As I have suggested in past posts, I believe that the position of Secretary of Agriculture — both at the federal (USDA) & state levels — should be considered as an actionable discussion by food & farm activists, for the following reasons:

a. USDA Sec. of Agriculture seems to be regularly the LAST cabinet position to be filled by a new president. This was true of Trump, Obama, and most other presidents in our life time. I believe that this is an indication of (1) a dominant urban population (70%), and (2) “food-and-farm” not being common terms on candidates platforms (why?).

b. State Secretaries of Agriculture suffer from the same lack of attention. Some are elected (about 17 states), some are appointed, and the methods of both election and appointment vary from state to state. The actual name of the title varies from state to state. 

The recent “firing” of a popular Wisconsin Sec. of Agriculture (by the state Senate’s refusal to reconfirm) demonstrates the desirability to consider ELECTING our state Sec. of Ag. in every state. 
Original news, Nov. 5, 2019 
Tweet by Chris Hayes, MSNBC

I think it would be beneficial for the national food & farm community to discuss the best practices of a state-level Secretary of Agriculture:
—elected or appointed
—commitment to food & farm policy councils (FPCs)
—other ?

For additional thoughts, here are some comments by an Illinois farmer, Wendel Lutz, a long-time member of NORM National Organization for Raw Materials.  I am copying Wendel on this email in case anyone wants to engage with his comments.

(1) June 23, 2019

Thank you for the email.  The impeachment call sounds very interesting.  Mr. Nichols and you are 100% right (in my opinion) about President Trump, his knowledge of the Dept of Ag, and Sonny Perdue. However, this has been nothing new with our Presidents in recent history. I am not a scholar (I just farm), but I think the last President to really talk about farm issues openly, and have something to say was John Kennedy.  I believe the 1980 Presidential campaign was the last one to have substantial ag policy in the political party platforms (the Republican Party comes to mind). The Secretary of Ag has always been the last Cabinet post to be filled by our newly elected Presidents in recent history.  I know it was for Obama.  You don’t really expect ag to be considered more important than, say, the Secretary of State or the Attorney General?  It is a position probably offered to a person to whom a political reward is in order, or loyalty is desired. What irks me is that when a political hack is confirmed, all the major ad groups like Farm Bureau or National Farmers Union rush to praise the new ag guy, only to be disappointed in the following months because the Sec. of Ag is the President’s Secretary, not the people’s secretary.  I wonder how much of a voice we really have.  By the way, didn’t Lincoln, who started the post, call the Ag Dept. “the people’s Dept.”?  

Wendel Lutz     

(2) June 25, 2019
Hi Debbie!

Going through your email–
Feel free to credit and quote me as you wish.  I am honored.  Just airing my inner, gut feelings mixed with memory.  I am not beholding to any organization (except NORM maybe), as I have been a member of, and vacated membership in many farm organizations and even commodity checkoffs.  If some one can elevate the perceived importance of the Ag Dept, my hat is off to them.  Between the age old perception of Ma and Pa Kettle, getting over the fact that farmers have tractors with air conditioned cabs, the disastrous PR ag puts out featuring their big, new equipment they “must have”, the prevailing thought that (due to our bad money system) we want and must have cheap, cheap food regardless of the long term health effects, and, oh yea, a good dose of apathy, people aren’t concerned as long as the store shelves are stocked. They need to be able to purchase important things like the latest I phone and Netflix.  

I believe that as a group, the State Ag Dept. heads, just like the State Attorney Generals, have the potential to wield great power–if they would organize and use it.  Yes, Illinois is appointed, but our Ag Director, like other States, primarily is focused on running numerous bureaucratic functions.  If people REALLY cared about food and ag issues, elections would be great.

Wendel Lutz  

5. ORDER OF PRIMARIES & CAUCUSES at national level

This may be a very tender spot for Iowa and New Hampshire, but I think candidate Julian Castro has brought up an important point for our national elections:  Should we reconsider the order of our state primaries & causes to better reflect national diversity?  

Castro held a town hall meeting in Iowa on this issue. Unfortunately I have not had time to follow-up on the discussion. I think it is a good discussion to have, whether we end up changing the order or not.

To start the conversation here’s a Nov. 11, 2019 Tweet by Sawyer Hackett (Castro’s Communications Director).