The USDA chief speculation is really rising to a fever pitch - so much so that I needed to post again on the subject. The NYT Diners Journal (via TPM) reports that almost 90 "notable" foodies including Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and His Eminence Wendell Berry have sent a letter to Obama listing their priorities (and some candidates) for the position. At the same time, local papers in Colorado are reporting that House Rep. John Salazar (a potato farmer as well as brother to Colorado Sen. Ken) has been added to the Ag sec shortlist.
This whole mishegas involving people dropping from and being added to various shortlists leaked to various news outlets suggests to me that 1) the field may really be wide open and 2) all the players realize how high the stakes are and are acting accordingly. I suspect Obama, having cleared his plate of the main course, is really just now tucking into the USDA pick and, in fact, might now have slightly different priorities than the people running his agriculture transition team. Whether he had those same priorities at the start of the transition process (that is to say, months ago and well before the election), I wouldn't presume to know.
I would however hazard to guess that there's quite a raucous backroom battle going on. My sincere hope is that Obama is trying to thread a very small needle which he has hopefully already pulled from the haystack. Let me also categorically state that I now officially have no idea who's going to get the nod (why would I?). But then again I don't think anyone but the POTUS-elect does either (and even he may not have it figured out yet). I'm convinced of one thing, though. At the end of this process, both sides - the Farm Lobby and the foodies - will profess to be disappointed in the pick. And in this case, satisfying no one may be the best possible outcome.