I was pleased to read in the Sunday Des Moines Register that the new chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be Karen Ross, former head of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. Ross was one of the “sustainable dozen” candidates that Food Democracy Now recommended for under-secretary positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last January Food Democracy Now told its supporters that Ross was getting serious consideration for a USDA post.
It’s encouraging to know that a voice for family farmers and sustainable practices will be running Vilsack’s office. In recommending Ross for an under-secretary position at the USDA, Michael Dimock of Roots of Change wrote more than a year ago,
Karen will represent well the diverse crops of our nation’s largest agricultural state. We know she will be a voice of innovation and adaptation that will support full expression of a sustainable agriculture over time. She did a great job shepherding the State Board’s recent visioning process for agriculture that rendered what we see as a very constructive vision for our future. Karen has also been a defining and constructive voice in the [Roots of Change]-funded California Roundtable for Agriculture and the Environment.
The visioning process Dimock mentions was California Ag Vision, an “effort to develop a broad consensus on how California might arrive at a farming and food system that can be sustained by the year 2030.”
Ross will replace John Norris, who did not come from an agriculture background but had worked closely with Vilsack for years in Iowa. He agreed to be Vilsack’s chief of staff at USDA with the understanding that it would be a temporary position. Norris was pursuing a spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to which the Senate confirmed him in December. Having completed his work as Vilsack’s chief of staff, Norris will start work next week at the FERC.