DES MOINES, Iowa – Tom Vilsack’s name was leaked as President-Elect Joe Biden’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture on Tuesday night, but Biden made it official on Thursday. His transition team announced that Biden intends to nominate Vilsack, 69, who served as Governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007, to return to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again. Vilsack served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
Along with Vilsack, the Biden-Harris transition team also announced the intended appointments of U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Denis McDonough as Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Katherine Tai as United States Trade Representative; and Ambassador Susan Rice as Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
“This dedicated and distinguished group of public servants will bring the highest level of experience, compassion, and integrity to bear, solving problems and expanding possibilities for the American people in the face of steep challenges. The roles they will take on are where the rubber meets the road — where competent and crisis-tested governance can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, enhancing the dignity, equity, security, and prosperity of the day-to-day lives of Americans. This is the right team for this moment in history, and I know that each of these leaders will hit the ground running on day one to take on the interconnected crises families are facing today,” Biden said in a released statement.
The Biden-Harris 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. Vilsack is committed to ensuring the USDA promotes true equity and inclusion in every mission it has,” their press release read.
Responding to the announcement of Visack’s appointment, Ben Watson, spokesman for U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told The Iowa Torch, “As with every nominee, Senator Ernst will vet each pick.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted Vilsack’s experience on Twitter. “Iowan Tom Vilsack has 8 yrs of experience leading the Dept of Agriculture. He also understands the importance of preserving the family farm & the significance of the biofuels industry,” he tweeted.
Grassley supported Vilsack’s nomination in 2009, and Michael Zona, a spokesman for Grassley, told The Iowa Torch that he plans to vote for his confirmation again.
Iowa’s agriculture leaders responded positively to the announcement.
“Having an Iowan at the helm of USDA is positive for our state’s agriculture community. Tom Vilsack will be able to hit the ground running given his previous experience, and being a former Governor, he understands the interaction between states and the federal government,” Republican Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig told The Iowa Torch.
“USDA plays a critically important role in supporting Iowa agriculture. I hope that Vilsack will continue to support renewable energy and foreign animal disease prevention, advance water quality and soil health, and promote trade and investments in rural America,” he added.
Iowa Farm Bureau said they are pleased by Biden’s choice.
“This year has underscored how essential agriculture is to our daily lives, providing the food, fuel and fiber we all depend on. Agriculture also serves as the engine that drives Iowa’s economy. That’s why it is so important to have a Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that understands the industry and the struggles family farmers face,” Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill said in a released statement.
“This year, in particular, has been especially challenging for Iowa farmers who faced a drought, derecho, and depressed markets. Iowan Tom Vilsack has remained engaged in U.S. agriculture and has a deep understanding of the current issues. We are very pleased he has been chosen to once again lead the USDA. We look forward to working with Mr. Vilsack, as we did for eight years during the Obama Administration, to help find solutions to the many challenges facing our nation’s farmers, and we stand ready to assist him in any way possible,” he added.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association said they look forward to working with Vilsack again.
“ICGA congratulates Tom Vilsack on his nomination to serve as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Being an Iowa native, Vilsack understands the significance of rural America and the importance of corn and biofuels. We had great success when Vilsack served as Secretary for eight years under the Obama Administration, and we welcome the opportunity to work with him again in this key role,” ICGA President Carl Jardon said in a released statement.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association applauded Vilsack’s record on the Renewable Fuel Standard and other renewable fuels intiatives that impact Iowa’s agricultural economy.
“It’ll be great to have an Iowan at the helm of USDA that understands the challenges facing the family farmers who dominate American agriculture. Secretary Vilsack knows first-hand the importance of robust biofuels markets at home and abroad to the economic vitality of the farm economy. He has stood up for the RFS and expanded exports. And Secretary Vilsack has created innovative solutions like the Biofuels Infrastructure Program that really began the growth of E15 availability. We look forward to Sec. Vilsack continuing to push creative solutions, whether it be for growing higher-blend markets, ensuring farmers are rewarded for their ability to sequester carbon in the soil, or in expanding export opportunities,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said in a released statement.