Ag Secretary Does Conference Call

This White House is very good connecting bloggers with them and the Cabinet.  Tomorrow Education Secretary Arne Duncan will do another press conference call and today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took questions.  He said the Administration continues to support ethanol production from all sources.  There has been some opposition to corn based ethanol due to the increased pressure on food prices.  Some food manufacturers are switching back to sugar from corn syrup so this may be an unintended benefit.

I asked about legal protections for undocumented immigrant farm workers.  Last summer an undocumented worker was beaten to death in Shenandoah in the midst of a demagogic Congressional campaign in PA-11.  Vilsack said they are discussing policy options with farm worker unions, primarily in California, and other interested parties to develop a policy.  Undocumented workers are vulnerable to abuse, unsafe conditions, substandard wages, lack of access to medical care and other significant problems.  Because they are not legal they tend not to report violations so they are in need of legal protections from predatory business owners.  We do honor essential human rights, after all, and the constitution protects every resident of this country, legal or not.

Food safety was also a subject of the call.  Today’s news that pistachios may now have been contaminated follows a long list of unsafe foods.  Peanuts, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, all kinds of produce are being contaminated and I suspect sewage sludge being spread on farms as a culprit.  I’ll pose that question the next time Secretary Vilsack takes questions.  Meanwhile it is great to be included on these conference calls and to have such access to get information and ask what is being done on critical issues.  There certainly is no lack of critical issues to be solved following eight years of disaster.