Reaction to Vilsack as Next USDA Secretary

December 16, 2008 06:00 PM

Pro Farmer Editors


Late Tuesday, news broke that former Iowa Governor (and former presidential candidate) Tom Vilsack will be tapped as the nominee by President-elect Barack Obama to be the next USDA Secretary. Check this link for more information. Following are reactions from various politicians and ag-related groups:

National Sorghum Producers: The National Sorghum Producers congratulates former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack on his nomination today as President-elect Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture. The cabinet appointment represents the President-elect’s commitment to production agriculture, renewable energy and rural development.

“We are looking forward to working with Governor Vilsack as he assumes the top role at USDA next month,” said Toby Bostwick, NSP Chairman of the Board from Melrose, New Mexico. “Governor Vilsack has shown a strong track record of supporting production agriculture and alternative energy policy. His commitment to rural development will also be positive for U.S. sorghum growers.”

Governor Vilsack spent eight years as Governor of Iowa, an agriculturally intensive state. He launched an early bid for Democratic presidential nomination but removed himself from the race shortly after President-elect Obama entered the arena.

“Governor Vilsack is a bright addition to the Obama camp and NSP looks forward to working with him on behalf of U.S. sorghum producers,” said Bostwick.

House Ag Chairman, Collin Peterson (D-Minn.): "I congratulate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack on his nomination for Secretary of Agriculture. Governor Vilsack is a strong advocate who understands the changing landscape of our nation's rural economy. I look forward to working with him and President-elect Obama in advancing food, conservation and energy policies that are in the best interest of American agriculture and the American people."

R-CALF USA: R-CALF USA is pleased with President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to be the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture and equally pleased with the appointment of Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., as the nominee to head the U.S. Department of Interior.

“We look forward to working with Mr. Vilsack and continuing our relationship with Senator Salazar and expect that they both will represent the interests of independent U.S. cattle producers, as well as U.S. beef consumers, and that they will also recognize those interests are quite separate from the interests of the multinational packers, processors and retailers that are also within the beef supply chain,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee.

“We were especially pleased during today’s news conference to announce this pair of nominees that President-elect Obama stated in very clear terms, ‘…it means ensuring that the policies being shaped…are designed to serve not big agribusiness or Washington influence peddlers, but family farmers and the American people…,’” Thornsberry added.

U.S. Grain Council president and CEO, Ken Hobbie: “On behalf of the U.S. Grains Council, we congratulate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack on his appointment to the head of the United States Department of Agriculture. This honor bestowed upon Mr. Vilsack as the 30th Secretary marks an important occurrence in the history of our industry. The members and leadership of the U.S. Grains Council have been dedicated to working cooperatively with USDA, especially with the Foreign Agricultural Service, for nearly 50 years and we look forward to continuing this invaluable relationship during the new administration for the good of U.S. barley, corn and sorghum growers, agribusinesses and the entire agricultural community.

“Agriculture is facing many challenges in light of the current economic situation, but we believe by working together with the new Secretary and all of USDA we will overcome these difficulties. Despite these challenges, U.S. agriculture is famous for uniting together and focusing on strengthening the future.

“The U.S. Grains Council will continue expanding demand for U.S. grains and co-products across the globe, which builds profitability for U.S. agriculture. Just as importantly, 2008 proved free and open trade is paramount to the U.S. economy and we are confident Mr. Vilsack will consider a liberalized trade environment a top priority. In order to stimulate global economic growth and to feed a growing world, we urge the approval of pending free trade agreements to be considered by the new administration as soon as possible.”

National Corn Growers Association: Today, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) congratulates Tom Vilsack of Iowa on his nomination for Secretary of Agriculture.  President-Elect Obama made the announcement this morning at a news conference.

“On behalf of NCGA and its members, I would like to extend our congratulations to Tom Vilsack,” Ron Litterer, NCGA Chairman from Greene, IA said. “As a former two-term Governor from a state where corn plays such an important role, Vilsack has demonstrated a commitment and deep knowledge of issues ranging from ethanol to conservation.”

During his eight years as Governor of Iowa, Vilsack was active on a number of issues affecting corn growers.  He chaired the Governors Ethanol Coalition, Governors Biotechnology Partnership, and the National Governors Association’s Natural Resources Committee, which handles agriculture and energy policies.  He also chaired the Democratic Governors Association in 2004. Tom Vilsack served as Governor of Iowa from 1999-2007.

Throughout the past several months, NCGA has worked closely with the Obama transition team on issues important to growers.  NCGA will continue to build on those relationships with Tom Vilsack and his staff.

“Governor Vilsack understands the opportunities and challenges facing the corn industry today,” NCGA President Bob Dickey said. “We feel he is a wise choice to lead the United States Department of Agriculture and look forward to working with him.”

National Association of Wheat Growers president, David Cleavinger: “As the president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, I was pleased to see President-elect Barack Obama announce his intention to nominate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be the next secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Colorado’s Sen. Ken Salazar to be the next secretary of the Department of the Interior.

“Both of these departments administer programs that are vital to the continued success of the agricultural industry. Throughout the campaign and transition period, the Obama staff and the President-elect himself have shown genuine interest in hearing the views of American farmers, and we think these nominations reflect that engagement.

“These are men who know agriculture and the producers who provide food, feed, fiber and fuel for Americans and many around the world. Gov. Vilsack has been vocal in his support of agricultural biotechnology; renewable fuels that will help break our dependence on foreign oil; agriculture’s participation in what he calls a “carbon-efficient economy”; and agriculture’s role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through soil carbon sequestration. Sen. Salazar has long been a friend of wheat growers and other agricultural producers, even receiving NAWG’s 2006 Wheat Advocate Award for his work.

“These are excellent choices. We look forward to quick approval of these nominations and beginning work with the new secretaries.”

American Farm Bureau Federation president, Bob Stallman: “We congratulate both former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack on his nomination as secretary of Agriculture and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) on his nomination as secretary of Interior. Both men have demonstrated experienced, steady judgment when it comes to working on agriculture-related issues.

“During his tenure as Iowa’s governor, one of the nation’s top agriculture-producing states, Gov. Vilsack was an ardent supporter of furthering the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind, as well as an advocate for biotechnology.  He has been a strong proponent of international trade and expanding our export markets. His understanding and experience with many of the pressing issues facing agriculture today will serve him well in his new position.

“Sen. Salazar, is also uniquely qualified and experienced to serve as Secretary of the Interior.  He serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has been a strong proponent of expanding the development of renewable fuels. He is a recipient of the Friend of Farm Bureau award for his many pro-agriculture efforts and his life-long experience as a farmer will serve him well in addressing the concerns of agriculture.

“We look forward to working with both Gov. Vilsack and Sen. Salazar, as well as their respected agencies to carry-out the programs and policies that will benefit America’s farmers and ranchers and rural America.”

National Pork Producers Council: We congratulate former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for being picked to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Vilsack today was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the 30th USDA secretary.

“Tom Vilsack knows production agriculture and the pork industry and will make a good Secretary of Agriculture,” said NPPC President Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, Ohio. “U.S. pork producers look forward to working with him as he tackles issues of importance to the U.S. hog industry, including trade agreements, animal identification, energy and environmental issues and livestock production matters.”

First elected to the Iowa governorship in 1998, Vilsack won re-election in 2002; he chose not to seek a third term. Currently he is of counsel in the Des Moines, Iowa, office of the Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

Vilsack received a bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and his juris doctorate from Albany Law School in Albany, N.Y.

Vilsack’s nomination is expected to be considered by the U.S. Senate when the 111th Congress convenes in January.

National Farmers Union: President-elect Barack Obama plans to appoint former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary. National Farmers Union President Tom Buis made the following statement.

"I think Gov. Vilsack is a great choice and I look forward to working with him. Being from Iowa, Gov. Vilsack has an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in rural America.

"Rural America is facing many challenges - the farm and rural economy have changed dramatically for the worst over the last few months as a result of the worldwide economic recession, the rules for the 2008 Farm Bill have not been finalized nor implemented, more people are seeking food assistance, and commodity prices have fallen dramatically while farmer input costs remain high.
"While rural America faces many challenges, President-elect Obama has prioritized numerous opportunities, including reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil by advancing the development of renewable energy. Not only will this help our nation, it will help revitalize our rural communities. Wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, cellulosic, will all be produced in rural America.

"President-elect Obama's rural vision is right on target."

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Ia.): "I am extremely pleased by the news being reported that Tom Vilsack will be nominated as Secretary of Agriculture.  I have known Tom Vilsack as a state legislator and as a governor. He knows production agriculture and he knows the changes we need to ensure its profitability and future, including for young and beginning farmers and ranchers.  Tom Vilsack has the experience, dedication and forward-looking thinking critically needed to build a better future for all Americans in food, agriculture, conservation, and the economic vitality of rural communities.  With these qualifications and his strong Iowa roots, I hope he is indeed nominated for this position."

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Ia.): “This comes as a surprise since about three weeks ago Governor Vilsack stated that he was not in contention for the job, but it sure isn’t a surprise because of his qualifications. As Governor of Iowa he has a firsthand look at the role of agriculture in our global economy,” Grassley said. “I’m happy for him, happy for Iowa and this is welcome news for agriculture.” 

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