Natural Foods Merchandiser

Getting to know Obama's picks

Health and human services secretary
Tom Daschle

Oversees programs that "protect health of all Americans," including Medicare and Medicaid. Also in charge of social services, welfare, public health and biomedical research, Daschle is expected to push hard for comprehensive health care reform.

  • With 26 years of experience in Congress, Daschle, 61, was first elected to office at age 30, when he became a congressman for South Dakota. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and became Senate minority leader in 1994. He lost a Senate reelection bid in 2004. Since then, Daschle has worked on health care policy issues and has been employed by lobbyist Alston & Bird.
  • In 2008, Daschle published the book Critical: What We Can Do About the Healthcare Crisis (Thomas Dunne Books), in which he asserts that the country's health care problems and economic woes are intimately tied.
  • David Seckman, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association, says, "In the past, when [Daschle] was a senator, he supported complementary and alternative medicine bills. He knows about [the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act]. He knows about the benefits of supplements and preventative medicine."

    Secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack
    Leads the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sets farm policy and oversees food safety, including making decisions on farm subsidies, food stamps, nutritional standards, cropland conservation and organic labeling.

  • Governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Served in the Iowa State Senate from 1992 to 1999.
  • In a mid-November post on the Blog for Rural America, Vilsack told John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs that child nutrition programs are high on his list of priorities, along with soil and water conservation, rural entrepreneurial development, next-generation biofuels, expanded alternative energy uses, specialty crops, local foods efforts and increased high-speed broadband Internet access in rural areas.
  • Vilsack has been criticized for his support of biotechnology and ties to agribusiness. He was named governor of the year in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

    Secretary of the interior Ken Salazar
    Charged with protecting land and species as well as developing natural resources. Heads such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

  • U.S. senator for Colorado since 2004. He served as the state's attorney general from 1999 to 2004 and as executive director of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources from 1987 to 1994.
  • Salazar's brother John represents Colorado's third Congressional district. Their family has farmed and ranched in the southwestern U.S. since the 16th century.
  • In a press release, Dan Grossman of the Environmental Defense Fund praised Salazar's "steadfast commitment to unite rather than divide." Salazar has a reputation as a centrist who has cut deals with ranching and mining industries, though he has stated his belief that "We simply cannot drill our way to energy independence."
  • Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released a statement calling Salazar's overall record "decidedly mixed," adding that it is "especially weak in the arenas most important to the next secretary of the interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered species."
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