On the agenda

Dec 19, 2008

On the agenda

It was announced last week that the new secretary of Interior will be Sen. Ken Salazar, D-CO. Prior to the announcement, it seemed that he wasn’t even a candidate. On the surface, he seems okay for the cattle business, given his background.

Salazar, former Colorado attorney general, grew up in the cattle and farming business. The good news is that Arizona Congressmen Raul Grijalva wont be the next secretary of the Interior. This, alone, should have resource users dancing in the streets.

I suppose the question on Salazar is what agenda will he be handed? The way President-elect Barack Obama talks, he’s going to have a green agenda.

But I honestly don’t think Salazar is as green as many groups would like him to be, although he has been an advocate of utilizing the West’s solar, wind and geothermal resources. He is okay with gas drilling, but doesn’t seem too thrilled with oil shale.

It would appear that Salazar is committed to the multiple use concept of public lands. The Sierra Club endorsed Salazar’s nomination and said: “Sen. Salazar will inherit an agency that has suffered from a pervasive rot under the Bush administration due to widespread corruption, simple incompetence, and severe under-funding. We are confident that Sen. Salazar will work with President-elect Obama and undo the damage of the Bush years and chart a course that will allow this vast agency to return to its proud legacy of protecting our last wild places, wildlife and vast natural resources.”

However, Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Center for Biological Diversity, was less optimistic about the nomination.

“He is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species,” said Suckling, whose group tracks endangered species and habitat issues. “He is very unlikely to bring significant change to the scandal-plagued Department of Interior. It’s a very disappointing choice for a presidency which promised visionary change.”

This outfit was a big supporter of the environmental radical Grijalva and makes no secret of their efforts to remove cattle from public lands.

It always seems that environmental groups get the words conservation and protection mixed up. The great thing about the Bush administration and the current leadership at the Department of Interior is that nothing has happened over the past eight years. No war on the West, no cow-free talk, and the radical environmentalists in the agency had to slide back into their holes.

The nominee for secretary of Agriculture is Tom Vilsack. I really don’t know much about him. We know he’s big on biofuels, genetic engineering, family farms and profitability. It also appears that his only connection with agriculture was being elected governor of Iowa for two terms. Interestingly enough, he is also an attorney. Have you noticed nearly everyone in the cabinet is an attorney? Again, which agenda will he be handed to implement? The Obama administration talks about creating green jobs and a lot about climate change.

Obama has said that he supports strict regulation of pollution from large-scale feedlots, a ban on meat packers raising livestock in competition with farmers, and country-of-origin labels (COOL) on U.S. food, “... so that American producers can distinguish their products from imported ones.” That last point is going to get interesting since Mexico has signed on with Canada to challenge the COOL issue with the World Trade Organization.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) likes Vilsack. He was their top pick, which makes me a little nervous. I’d like to see how this former Iowa govenor would react if HSUS were to take on Iowa on the issue of banning farrowing crates. They’ve already proven they can take on the states with fewer than five hog farms and a population that thinks food comes from the grocery store.

It seems that no one really feels very strongly one way or the other about these guys, so they may be just about right. There are a lot of green overtones from the Obama administration, but attacking agriculture would be a shortsighted move. Obama has made it pretty clear that his cabinet appointments are going to carry out his agenda.

But, he has moved to the middle ground on many issues. We will just have to wait and see when he takes office. — PETE CROW