Speaking yesterday at a gathering of the Grocery Manufacturers Association — a trade group whose member list reads like a directory of multinational food corporations — President Bush waxed coy about his new choice for USDA secretary.
This afternoon I’m going to name a new Secretary of Agriculture. I’m not going to tell you who it is, because I’m trying to — [laughter] — but I think you’ll like him. He understands agriculture, of course, and he’ll be a good follow-on to Mike Johanns, who did a superb job as the Secretary of Agriculture. And I’m going to ask the Senate, of course, to confirm this person as quickly as possible.
Later in the day, the president named former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer to the post. Will the captains of industry that Bush addressed like this choice, as promised? Probably so. According to a White House fact sheet, Schafer championed the biotech industry while governor, cofounding the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, a project designed to "increase public understanding and support for the benefits of agricultural biotechnology."
Industrial food manufacturers love GMOs, insofar as the technology jacks up yields and keeps crop prices low.
Grocery Manufacturers Association member Archer Daniels Midland will be happy to know about Schafer’s ethanol boosterism. Way back in 1997 — when rock-bottom oil prices meant ethanol needed every friend it could get — Schafer joined then Texas Gov. G.W. Bush on the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition.
I doubt Schafer’s ascension will affect the Farm Bill debate much. Chuck Conner, the USDA’s undersecretary and a devout Big Corn man, typically handles negotiations with Congress.