Vilsack Promises to Modernize Food Safety System

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack laid out an expansive list of priorities for the Department of Agriculture in a conference call Monday with reporters. Vilsack said USDA should pay a major role in battling childhood obesity and enhancing public health and nutrition; support the development of biofuels, wind power, and other renewable energy sources; and make progress on climate change while working with farmers and ranchers on clean air and water. He discussed programs to help farmers participate markets for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Vilsack said he wants to quickly implement the 2008 Farm Bill and modernize America's food safety system. An early decision will be a new leader for the Food Safety and Inspection Service; The Washington Post's Federal Eye column today reported two people -- Caroline Smith–Dewall, who is food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and former FSIS Administrator Barbara J. Masters, who is senior policy adviser at the Washington, D.C. law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC -- are under consideration for that job.

Vilsack said he wants to restore the mission of the Forest Service as a protector of clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat and feels it is important to appropriately budget for wildfires so the Forest Service has the resources it needs for its missions.

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