After 18 months of non-action, President Obama has filled the legally-mandated ag and food adviser spot on his policy staff. His choice – Illinois native David Lazarus – has been applauded by the Washington ag press, and appears to be a sound pick who may actually understand the agriculture that exists beyond local, small and organic.
Interestingly, I got to know Lazarus during the presidential campaign when he became the key force in Obama's camp for getting a slate of questions answered for a Prairie Farmer story. After a group of my colleagues and I brainstormed questions, we presented them to both the Obama and McCain campaigns to answer, with the caveat that they story would run in all of our 18 Farm Progress publications, nationwide. Being the editor from Illinois, I was assigned the Obama half of the story, and Lazarus wound up being my contact.
At the time, he'd been plucked from work as Dick Durbin's ag legislative assistant (or Ag LA, in D.C. speak), to serve as second in command on Obama's rural outreach team. Of the handful of folks I actually got to speak with in the campaign, Lazarus was the only one who A) actually knew what Prairie Farmer was, and B) cared. And he made sure our questions got answered.
After election, Lazarus was appointed to the transition team and then became a staffer for Vilsack at USDA. He moved into his new White House office this week.
Here's hoping he remains as pragmatic and mindful of production agriculture in the big house as he was on the campaign trail.