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Tom Vilsack for USDA AG Secretary ?

This letter was sent recently in response to an email I received in support of Tom Vilsack (below)



My good friend Caroline McDougall forwarded me your email below re your support of  Tom Vilsack for USDA AG Secretary.  I have heard many good things over the years about your accomplishments in  organic foods.  While we do not know each other, like you I have also been promoting organic food and farming for over 25 years. I am also the founder of Nutiva- the organic hemp and coconut superfoods company. As a values-driven company, we donate 1% of sales to sustainable ag groups, such as Eco Farm and Organic Consumer Association. I find your description of OCA as a special interest group interesting.  What I am about to share you may not enjoy hearing. But believe me this is what many people are feeling right now but do not speak this because it is not in their financial interest to do so, Drake, or perhaps they are not asked to comment.

Do you think defending organic standards against the assaults of the Bush admin over the past 8 years a “special interest ” ? Or how about the willful  breaking of 14 USDA National Organic Program rules by a firm Aurora Dairy, that still represents the Organic Trade Association  as a spokesperson for the organic industry and people think not even twice about such a contradiction. Perhaps you also know the management at this firm and respect them too. Who stepped forward to condemn this action ? Did anyone who is a board member of OTA  ? Or at the Organic Summit ?

Did you know Eco Farm is concerned  to invite speakers to discuss the dairy issue because this may cause them to lose corp sponsorship ? What caused our little movement to now have a situation where the original hippy farmers who created the supply of organic foods to feel afraid to speak out because their rich hippy brother and sisters now hold the gold and do not like any one criticizing “our industry” ?  Did you know that cattle feed lots where 6-8,000 cows are forced into pens without access to pasture is not only non-sustainable but a eco disaster ? It causes huge water quality issues and neighbors are angry about a massive influx of flies. Cows get sick eating a diet of corn and soybean vs grass and thus belch methane because their stomach’s become too acidic. Drinking a glass of organic milk every day  from a cattle confinement operation is also like driving a V8 SUV in terms of damage to our planet….methane is more than 15 X worse than CO 2. Such information might be new to you because such information is restricted among thought leaders in the Organic Inc.

Overall I find some of the older leaders of the organic movement have lost some of their spark from what caused them to begin the movement back 20-30 years ago.  In fact under people’s breath they speak of the  “organic mafia” and say no more.

Now to Vilsack. I have been told he is is a fine gentlemen and a popular governor. You stated “What’s needed most at USDA now is proven impartial leadership that can provide balanced, intelligent management with a knowledgeable understanding of today’s farming challenges.”

Let’s look at Iowa on the ground.

The state is a cesspool in terms of water quality caused by Industrial Ag. A friend of mine Steve Shriver who founded Eco Lips and is now VP at Frontier Coop has told me when his family swims in the creeks or ponds in Iowa on a hot summer day, they are dismayed the next day that they have all sorts of skin issues from the toxins in the water. Monsanto, Dow, Dupont et all produce huge amounts of toxic chemicals which are released in the hundreds of millions of pounds across Iowa. Where was Mr Vilsack during his watch with the carpet bombing of toxins being added to the fine state of Iowa ? How about the million pig operations Mr  Vilsack supported which ruined watersheds and created manure nightmares for the rural farm families ?

If this is his record of governing  Iowa, what should we expect across all the USA ? Should we expect that as Mr Vilsack heads to DC, he will have a change of heart and mind, and make a course correction and manage ag affairs in an effort to create a healthy and sustainable world ?

Perhaps that is what you and his organic industry supporters  are counting on. Somehow we do not have a good track record of leaders going to DC and having a sudden change of direction in the positive. One only needs to look at our state of affairs in banking, auto, health and food industries to reflect on.
As an early supporter of Mr Obama I was very receptive to his mantle of change after 8 years of Bush 43.

So tell me again why I should support Mr Vlisack as our USDA Ag Secretary and not listen to “special interest groups ”  who raise real concerns about the track record of the nominee ?

John W Roulac
Founder and CEO Nutiva

—— Forwarded Message
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2009 12:46:56 -0800
Conversation: I need your help
Subject: FW: I need your help

Dear family and friends,

I am writing to ask for your help.

A friend of mine Tom Vilsack (former governor of Iowa) has been chosen by president Obama to be Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.  The USDA is a very large part of the federal government, and much like other critical areas of government it is badly in need of reform.  Tom is from a large farming state, he understands the complexities of the farm industry, and he is very qualified to lead in this effort.

Like any industry there are conflicting interests within the farming community (small vs large farms, conventional vs organic, GMOs vs non GMOs, food vs fuel, etc).  What’s needed most at USDA now is proven impartial leadership that can provide balanced, intelligent management with a knowledgeable understanding of today’s farming challenges.

Later this month, all the new president’s nominees will be subjected to rigorous Senate confirmation hearings.  Unfortunately, a special interest group (the Organic Consumer Association is attempting to block Tom’s nomination because of his past  support of GMO’s while governor.  Quite frankly I’m also opposed to the use of GMOs, but I respect the work that Tom has done to support organic agriculture, to develop alternative fuels (Iowa is the second largest wind energy producing state), and to promote conservation initiatives.

In response to OCA’s campaign against Tom, a group of business leaders from the organic natural products industry are working together in support of Tom’s nomination.  We all know Tom personally, we respect his many accomplishments, we appreciate his integrity and leadership, we worked with him in his own bid for the presidency, and we share the belief that he will make a great Secretary of the Agriculture.

We need your help to make this happen.  Please check out the website we’ve created <> to read what others have written.  And, if you agree with us, we would ask you to join us in signing the petition to support Tom.  And please forward this communication to everyone you know.

Thank you so much for your time,

Co-founder & CVO
Traditional Medicinals

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