Big Barack Bummer

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In many ways, Barack Obama is my hero. He's a brilliant leader who is doing amazing things to reform health care, the economy and education. He and his wife Michelle sparked much excitement when they installed an organic garden at the White House. His Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, quickly followed suit and planted a tidy green plot in front of his office building. And, like the bean stalks growing in their yard, the excitement continues to swell as Michelle is periodically photographed in the garden and speaks about the need for healthy food choices for kids. The Obamas quickly ascended to be the most visible participants in the sustainable food movement.

But, like the sudden realization that your lettuce crop has been eaten by a furry friend, I was shocked and disappointed by recent nominations by President Obama to key posts at US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of people from Monsanto and CropLife, two agribusinesses. These nominations severely undermine his campaign promises and efforts to reform our industrial food system (which the Obamas are already trying to do in their backyard!). His hero status has been lowered.

According to the Pesticide Action Network, Islam Siddiqui, nominated to U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator is currently a Vice President at CropLife and a former lobbyist. According to the organization, "this position will enable him to keep pushing chemical pesticides, inappropriate biotechnologies, and unfair trade arrangements on nations that do not want and can least afford them." Roger Beachy, formerly with Monsanto, is now the director of the newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is part of the USDA. "This office comes with a $500 million budget, and therein control over the U.S. ag research agenda for years to come."

As the film Food, Inc. has shown, there is a revolving door between lobbyists from big agribusinesses and the US government. This has enabled these agribusinesses to set much of the US agriculture policies which are dangerous and destructive to the environment, our health and farm workers. It's disappointing that the Obama Administration is not providing the visionary leadership on agriculture, like it is in some many other policy areas.

However, we have an opportunity for Obama to be a food-policy hero if we help to stop these nominations and set a new policy direction at the USDA that is focused on a healthy, sustainable and environmentally safe food for all. Join with thousands of others today to say no to these appointments by signing this petition and telling others. And, if you'd like to munch on some delicious, local organic produce like the First Family does, find a local farmer near you.

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