The Farm Exception

I didn’t know a great deal about Ken Salazar’s environmental record, but according to Grist’s Kate Sheppard he’s been quite solid on most “green” issues with the important exception of agriculture where he’s done things like vote against “a subsidy-reform amendment to the farm bill that would have boosted conservation funding by $1.2 billion and made access to the funds more equitable.” And the shocking reality of the legislative politics of agriculture is that the amendment in question failed by a large margin.

Meanwhile, Tom Vilsack is going to be Agriculture Secretary. Vilsack did some very important yeoman’s work a few years back trying to heal the wounds between the labor-oriented and centrist factions of the progressive movement, but on farm issues as far as anyone knows he’s a very conventional Iowa subsidy guy. Given the Obama administration’s high environmental aspirations, it seems perverse to just pretend that agricultural policy doesn’t have environmental impact. But that’s the convention in American politics and it looks like something Team Obama is comfortable with.