ST. PAUL — As President-elect Joe Biden's incoming cabinet begins to take form, the Democrat announced on Thursday, Dec. 10 that Tom Vilsack would return to his previously held post as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Vilsack headed the USDA for the entirety of former-President Barack Obama's administration, from 2009 to 2017. Previous to his eight-year stint in the cabinet, Vilsack served two terms as Iowa's democratic governor.
The Iowan's nomination comes after months of swirling rumors over who would get the nod: North Dakota's former-U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, as well as Minnesota's presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, were floated as contenders. Ohio's U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge also made her case to head up the agency, but instead got tapped to lead the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
In their Thursday news release, the Biden transition team said Vilsack "is ready to get to work on day one."
"With an estimated one-in-six Americans and a quarter of U.S. children facing a hunger crisis, farmers reeling, and rural communities struggling to weather the pain and economic fallout of the pandemic, Vilsack will bring the experience and bold thinking needed to deliver immediate relief to farmers, ranchers, producers and families all across the country," the transition team said.
Vilsack's nomination marks the return of a Midwesterner to the number-one spot in American agricultural policy (current USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue hails from Georgia), as Minnesota's U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson departs from his seat in Congress, where he chaired the House agriculture committee.
Peterson himself celebrated the news in a Thursday statement, saying Vilsack "understands very well the challenges that farmers and rural communities face across the country." Peterson called on his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to confirm Vilsack quickly.
Agricultural and food trade groups such as the National Farmers Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, North American Meat Institute, National Corn Growers and more praised Biden's pick, pointing to his previous experience as a hope of stability to come. The agricultural industry had already been reeling before the coronavirus pandemic, which has this year exacerbated unstable markets.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall on Thursday praised Vilsack's "reputation for rising above partisanship to serve farmers and ranchers," and said he looks forward to partnering up to improve markets, build up rural broadband infrastructure and "ensure climate policies respect farmers and remain market-based and voluntary."
Up north, Save the Boundary Waters Executive Director Tom Landwehr also celebrated Vilsack's nomination, saying he "is very familiar with the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining (...) and the risk this type of mining poses to" the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.