Obama less left than originally feared

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During the campaign trail, Barack Obama seemed to pile on leftist rhetoric to appeal to the left and lived up to his claim as the most liberal senator in Congress. But in the days leading up to his official inauguration many of his key personnel appointments are "going right down the middle."

Barry Flinchbaugh, KansasState agricultural economist, said he has been pleasantly surprised with many of Obama's appointments this far. He stated many of his left wing friends are already starting to complain and obviously the right wing isn't happy, but most Americans are moderate and Obama has embraced that fact.

"What we heard was a lot of rhetoric to appeal to the left base. Now that he's president-elect he's facing an unbelievable set of problems. He now seems to have decided to be more realistic and go down the middle," Flichbaugh said.

The majority of his major cabinet appointments were made prior to Christmas. Many of the nominees are considered friendly to agriculture, important for Obama who heads to the White House with very little agriculture interaction prior to this point.

Obama seems to be pulling many of his former running mates into top cabinet positions.

Agriculture

One of the first names mentioned for the agriculture secretary position was former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Despite originally being a supporter of Hillary Clinton after dropping out of the presidential race himself, Obama picked Vilsack to lead the USDA.

Obama could feel he owes the state of Iowa after getting his momentum building caucus win at the start of the primary season.

Vilsack won the Iowa governor position in 1998, the first Democratic governor in 32 years.

He is a strong supporter of renewable fuels and supported the Farm Bureau on many of their requests during his time in office.

Trade

During the campaign Obama's position on trade troubled many in agriculture, indicating a strong protectionist point of view. He stated he would revisit the North America Free Trade Agreement and also did not push for a vote on the Colombia FTA.

Another former running mate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been tapped to lead the Commerce Department. Flichbaugh recognized Richardson as a strong supporter of NAFTA.

Former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk is nominated as the next ambassador for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Kirk is pro-trade and was welcomed by many agriculture organizations.

Energy

Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate with considerable experience and interest in climate science and clean energy technology.

Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said Vilsack's appointment for USDA head is good news for the biofuels industry. "He knows which end of the cow the distillers' grain goes in. Some of the other Obama appointments so far, in particular the new Secretary of Energy-designee Steven Chu, have caused us some concern. So this may balance things for ethanol."

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is nominated to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. As interior secretary he will play a vital role in fully developing our nation's renewable energy potential.

National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, said Salazar has "been a champion for America's family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities while serving in the U.S. Senate and I have no doubt he will continue these efforts as interior secretary. Salazar has also recognized the role America's farmers can play in reversing the damaging effects of climate change; and has supported conservation programs that will preserve the land for the next generation of producers."

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