By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, Friday, December 18, 2020
BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — President-elect Joe Biden this week officially nominated former Iowa Governor and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a lawyer by trade, to return as Ag Secretary in his administration. This nomination will likely be a fast walk through Senate confirmation, given the supportive words this week from American Farm Bureau and prominent Ag Senators from both sides of the aisle.
But some responses from a few organizations and grassroots efforts, as well as some Senators, are less than supportive or outright aiming to stop the confirmation. Some, because they see the choice as one that does not make diversity, equality, and feeding programs a priority. Some, because he talked about antitrust issues but did nothing when Secretary under Obama. Others, because they remember Vilsack’s role in removing whole milk (and 2% milk and 1% flavored milk) from school menus and prohibiting it from a la carte offerings.
Still others, are being more methodical in thinking through how to deal with a third round of Secretary Vilsack.
Throughout the Biden-Harris campaign for the presidency, Biden made it clear that his slogan — Build Back Better — had as much to do with climate change and new farm and energy policy as anything else. In several stump speeches, Biden drew from the rural policy he admitted this week was in part developed by Vilsack, himself, to talk about paying farmers to put land in ‘land banks’, now being referred to as ‘conservation’ and to plant crops ‘we want you to grow,’ now being called ‘cover crops.’
The terms ‘conservation’ and ‘cover crops’ are familiar terms that put farmers at ease. They plant cover crops already to stabilize ground between main crops and to produce grazing or harvested forage for dairy cows and livestock. Farmers know what payments to idle land can mean for landlords retired from farming. But what does it mean for dairy farmers renting that land? I guess we will soon find out.
Here’s the deal. While introducing Vilsack as his Ag Secretary pick, Biden stated publicly that, “(Vilsack) helped develop my rural plan for rural America in the campaign, and he now has the dubious distinction of having to carry it out,” said Biden with a laugh. “It’s a good plan that includes making American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net zero emissions and create new sources of income for farmers in the process.”
Wait a minute, Tom Vilsack helped develop president-elect Biden’s rural plan for rural America while he was being paid a million dollar salary through mandatory dairy farmer checkoff?
When farmers have asked him to say even one positive word about bringing whole milk back to schools during his private citizen tenure with producer-funded dairy checkoff, the response from DMI was: ‘Sorry, we can’t lobby on government policy.”
But did we just hear Biden properly? We did. He said the top-paid DMI executive Tom Vilsack “helped develop” government farm policy for a partisan presidential campaign candidate who is now president-elect Biden. This policy at the Biden campaign website states ‘the Green New Deal is the framework’. It is policy that aligns directly with what the global, multinational food corporations want. These companies pay membership into the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) of which Vilsack was president and CEO since January 2017.
In fact, as Biden and Vilsack shared the podium Tuesday, when the Ag Secretary pick was announced officially, they described a USDA and rural plan that fits within the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset (which also uses the Build Back Better tagline).
At the core of the Great Reset are the same huge global food manufacturers and purveyors who are part of USDEC (adding their membership fees to the mandatory producer checkoff funds to have influence). The USDEC, which Vilsack oversaw the past four years is joined at the hip with DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was founded by checkoff in 2008 when then Sec Vilsack struck Memorandums of Understanding between USDA and DMI to chart a course for sustainability and to start the low-fat dietary indoctrination of children via GENYOUth.
This train of globalism has been rolling. It slowed down a bit the past four years when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Treaty and nixed the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, called out China, and revamped NAFTA.
But the consolidating globalist food transformation train does keep rolling no matter which political party is in power.
“The one bipartisan thing getting done in Washington is this: their ability to work on and move forward the globalization of food and agriculture,” said Mike Eby, a Gordonville, Pa. farmer and executive director of Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM).
He notes the concern of OCM and others that Vilsack has a track record of doing nothing on the antitrust and anti-competitive market issues in agriculture, that he could ignore checkoff referendum requests that will be brought to USDA with the appropriate number of signatures in the next year, just as he ignored the law while Secretary and did not forward the annual reports about the dairy checkoff to Congress for four years. Another concern is that Vilsack’s return to USDA brings an entrenched globalization end-game with no path forward for country of origin labeling.
“Under Republicans, we saw a push toward consolidation, but under this Democratic rural policy developed by Vilsack and now to be fulfilled by Vilsack, we see the choke point at the center of food production through qualifications of standardization determining who can participate and how,” says Eby, who also serves as chairman of the National Dairy Producers Organization (NDPO) and on the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee that is active in the Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free campaign.
“With a net zero or environmental choke point in place, and specific benchmarks, consumers may only have the ability to purchase from the middleman that says the milk or beef meets the ‘net zero’ standard,” Eby continues. “It is a linear goal, either way, that makes it difficult for competitive markets and independent producers to survive.”
Vilsack’s own words in accepting the President-elect’s nomination to return him to his former post as Ag Secretary paint a bit of a picture: “One of our first orders of business is to do all that is possible at Department to aid in the pandemic response, reviving rural communities and economies, addressing dire food shortages and getting workers and producers the relief they need to hang on and come back stronger,” he said.
But read what he said next: “When we emerge from this (pandemic) crisis, we will have an incredible opportunity before us — to position U.S. agriculture to lead our nation and the world in combating climate change. Reaping new good-paying jobs and farm income will come from that leadership.”
He touted Abraham Lincoln’s words when he first established the USDA. Lincoln called it “The People’s Department.”
But in essence, Tom Vilsack is part of an elite class that believes they know best for the people. Through pandemic and climate fear, they are counting on the masses to be scared into submission about food and jobs so systems for the food transformation can be redesigned the way the global organizations, billionaire tech sector investors and multinational companies are planning.
The agenda was crystallized and set in motion in the 2007 to 2009 time period. First, importers were given influence in dairy and beef checkoff messages by including them in the checkoff deduction. Next, the MOU’s between USDA and checkoff etched in stone a path of transformation that throws competitive markets and country of origin labeling to the side in favor of farmers conforming to certain standards. It all begins with things farmers already do and as they get comfortable, the vice their own money places them in starts to squeeze.
The agenda was perpetuated when Dietary Guidelines – the tip of the food transformation iceberg – were adopted in 2015 without full consideration of the science on fats. Again for 2020, the low fat and fat free vegetarian style eating patterns continue, even though current Secretary Sonny Perdue has not yet rubber-stamped them. Vilsack will, of course.
With the low-fat / fat-free emphasis of the DGAs, the new Bioengineered labeling rules, and the FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy, the dilution of animal proteins with plant- and lab-based lookalikes has an easy road.
Without country of origin labeling, globalized food supply chains are created and sustained to give a few large multinational corporations control.
With dairy and beef checkoff programs continually funded by farmers with importers paying something to be at the table to douse domestic marketing, these global companies are able to sit at a secret, or proprietary table where pre-competitive ‘innovations’ are hatched and the ‘choke points’ of farming practices and production standards in “producer programs” like FARM are decided.
Vilsack’s replacement to head the USDEC (as well as defacto head of the various global partnerships that make up the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy) is Krysta Harden. DMI announced this week that Harden will be promoted to Vilsack’s vacated post from her current role as DMI’s executive vice president of global environmental strategies.
Harden and Vilsack worked together on the Net Zero Initiative for two of the past four years, and they worked together before that at USDA. When Vilsack was previously Ag Secretary under President Obama, Harden was installed as Deputy Undersecretary for 2013 through 2016.
One thing Biden said Tuesday that really sinks in: “I asked (Tom Vilsack) to serve again in this role because he knows the USDA inside and out. He knows the government inside and out. We need that experience now.”
He might have easily added that Vilsack knows China inside and out as well. While USDA Secretary, Vilsack participated in the joint commission on commerce and trade between the U.S. and China, meeting in 2015 in Chicago. He flowed that right into USDEC with the dairy industry global supply chain companies and will flow them right back to the USDA as he goes back to being Secretary again.
Yes, dairy and agriculture relationships with China are important, but so too is the concept that free trade needs to also be fair trade. Global supply chains don’t care whether U.S. family farms make it. They have an agenda and are using climate-change ‘philanthropy’ to achieve it.
Biden and Vilsack talked about new possibilities, new revenue, new jobs, via a ‘new’ charter for USDA as a climate agency.
With a four-year interruption in the so-called climate agenda seeking farm, food, and energy transformation that was begun 12 years ago, we can expect things to move fast – very fast – on the globalization and transformation of food once Vilsack resumes his former USDA post, especially if the Democratic party gains control of the Senate in addition to already having control of the House and the incoming office of the President of the United States.