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Biden expected to nominate ex-Governor Vilsack for USDA secretary

09 December 2020

US President-elect Joe Biden plans to have former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack reprise his role as USDA secretary.

Reuters reports that Axios heard the news from people familiar with the matter.

The Biden transition office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Vilsack, who led the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under former President Barack Obama, could not immediately be reached. His spokeswoman, Regina Black, declined to comment "as an official announcement hasn't been made."

Vilsack's return to the USDA is likely to be applauded by Midwestern states that produce the bulk of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, and prefer him to someone from another region of the country.

 

The Farm Belt was battered by President Donald Trump's trade war with China and waivers that exempted oil refiners from obligations to use corn-based ethanol. But Midwestern farmers also received an unprecedented amount of direct farm subsidies under Trump even as coronavirus stimulus for millions of other Americans stalled in Congress.

Vilsack, who is chief executive of the US Dairy Export Council, actively campaigned for Biden in farm states, acting as his rural and agriculture adviser during the election.

Iowa governor from 1999 to 2007, he is seen by establishment Democrats as a politically safe choice, largely because of his moderate politics, previous experience, and long-standing, friendly relationships with large-scale farmers.

A coalition of progressive food, farming and environmental advocacy groups promoted rival candidates.

However, Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Unions commented:

“Between pandemic recovery, the imminent threat of climate change, rampant corporate power, and chronic overproduction, family farmers and ranchers have significant challenges ahead of them in the next several years – and they need a strong Secretary of Agriculture behind them to make it through in one piece. After eight years leading USDA, Tom Vilsack has the necessary qualifications and experience to steer the agency through these turbulent times. He must use his impressive set of skills to implement and enforce rules that protect farmers from anticompetitive practices, enact meaningful structural reforms that balance supply with demand, restore competition to agricultural markets, strengthen local and regional food systems, advance racial equity in agriculture, and mitigate the threat of climate change.

“However, the Secretary’s obligation is not just to serve farmers; it’s also to serve the American public at large. Many of the aforementioned reforms will benefit everyone by building a food system that is fairer, more sustainable, and more resilient to disruptions. In addition to those changes, we would urge Vilsack to expand nutrition assistance programmes in order to ensure that millions of individuals who are facing unemployment and food insecurity are able to meet their most basic needs through the pandemic.”

Read the full report on Reuters.

Source: Reuters



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