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06.04.08

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Photograph courtesy Obama for America
Over It: At this point, you'd be done with pizza too.

Hot Potatoes

Talking food with Barack Obama

By Ari LeVaux


Food and agriculture issues might not make the headlines very often in a presidential race, but they affect everything from health to the economy. That's why I've been trying for weeks to reach the three remaining presidential candidates for some comments on food and agriculture policy. The Obama campaign invited me to email some questions to the senator. Below is our exchange.

Metro Santa Cruz: You voted for the Farm Bill, despite the enormous subsidies it provides to wealthy farmers. Why?
Sen. Obama: The Farm Bill has many positive provisions, in particular, an increase in federal funding for the development of renewable fuels, which will help reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil.  The legislation provides an additional $10.3 billion for nutrition assistance programs, such as food stamps and school lunches. Although the Farm Bill is far from perfect, I support the legislation because it recognizes the important role of America's farmers and ranchers, and the need to develop our rural economy. It is regrettable that John McCain [who voted against it] does not agree.    While the Farm Bill does lower significantly the income limits of farmers eligible for subsidies, it doesn't provide as much reform as I have advocated.  

Your hometown of Chicago is served by Angelic Organics, a local family farm featured in the 2007 documentary 'The Real Dirt on Farmer John,' which Al Gore called 'incredibly special.' Small farms that market to local communities are vital components of healthy local food systems. What policy initiatives would you propose to strengthen local food systems?
Unfortunately, I have not had time to see the film, but I am very familiar with the great work of Angelic Organics and other community-supported farms. These types of farms can provide an important source of fresh fruits and vegetables to inner city communities that do not have easy access to grocery stores that sell organic foods. Moreover, farms like Angelic Organics that sell directly to consumers cut out all of the middlemen and get full retail price for their food, which increases the financial viability of small family farms. As president, I would implement USDA policies that promote local and regional food systems, including assisting states to develop programs aimed at community-supported farms.  I also support a national farm-to-school program and am pleased that the Farm Bill provides more than $1 billion to expand healthy snacks in our schools.

You support ethanol and other biofuels as clean and renewable alternatives to foreign oil. As president, how would you make sure enough agriculture land stays planted in food?
I have been a long-time supporter of home-grown biofuels, but I believe that corn ethanol should be a transitional fuel source as we move towards more advanced cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from agricultural waste products, switchgrass, sustainably harvested forest biomass, and other renewable feedstock.

What's your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?
I've been using this chili recipe since college and would bring it to any potluck. I can't reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it's just got the right amount of bite, the right amount of oomph in it, and it will clear your sinuses.

Obama Family Chili Recipe
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans

Sauté onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and brown. Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat. Add red wine vinegar. Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down. Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.


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