Industry reaction to Vilsack nomination
Major farm and nutrition leaders today praised President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Tom Vilsack to be Agriculture secretary, while some small farm and minority groups criticized the choice.
Marshall Matz, a partner in the OFW law firm — “Tom Vilsack’s commitment to rural America is as strong as the president-elect’s commitment to fight for the Soul of America. It is a tremendous personal statement by both; they are true public servants.”
Matz co-chaired the 2008 rural campaign effort for Barack Obama and encouraged Obama to choose Vilsack as his Agriculture secretary.
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said that while the dairy industry “will miss him as a colleague friend” as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, “all of us in the dairy community who have had the opportunity to work with him over the past four years know his deep passion and commitment to rural America and his understanding of its interdependence with our urban and suburban communities.”
“The challenges that lie ahead are many — from a battered farm economy to climate change, the environment and sustainability, to nutrition and the importance of addressing the nation’s growing food insecurity, as well as the need for better trade policy and expanded markets abroad, and much more. No one is better suited to tackle these challenges than Tom Vilsack.”
National Corn Growers Association President John Linder — “In his eight years leading the department during the Obama administration, corn farmers appreciated his willingness to listen to the input from growers across the country and his steadfast commitment to agriculture, renewable fuels, our environment and USDA’s food and nutrition programs.”
“He’s been an outspoken advocate for rural America and we look forward to working together again, along with President-elect Biden, to build long-term demand for our product, mitigate the impact of climate change, seek new markets around the globe, and continue to feed and fuel the world.”
Niels Hansen, president of the The Public Lands Council, which lobbies on federal land and livestock management issues in the West —
“Livestock producers have a long history of working with former Secretary Vilsack at the Department of Agriculture.”
“Few have the breadth and depth of experience he has in facing issues confronting multiple sectors of our industry. This experience will serve him well as the country and our producers work to recover from the unexpected challenges brought by 2020.
“As secretary, he will have the opportunity to utilize grazing as an effective management tool, and we are ready to work with him in this familiar role to show him all of the benefits livestock grazing brings to our nation’s public lands.”
North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts — “Secretary Vilsack brings experience and leadership to the Department of Agriculture at a critical time when the meat and poultry industry works to put food on American’s tables and to keep the farm economy working in a pandemic.”
“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Vilsack in his new role to ensure our industry remains a valuable partner to livestock producers, an efficient supplier to consumers and competitive in the international marketplace.”
The American Sugar Alliance, which represents beet and cane growers — “During Tom Vilsack’s previous tenure as secretary of Agriculture, he was a trusted partner to America’s sugar farmers and workers and strengthened the farm and trade policies that support rural America“
“We look forward to once again working with Secretary Vilsack at the helm of the Department of Agriculture. Together, we will protect America’s no-cost sugar policy and ensure that America’s sugar farmers can continue producing a sustainable and affordable supply of sugar.”
American Farmland Trust President and CEO John Piotti — “American Farmland Trust congratulates Tom Vilsack on being nominated as secretary of Agriculture by President-elect Joe Biden.”
“At a time when farmers are struggling in the face of a global pandemic, his experience will help USDA tackle these challenges on day one of the new administration. We especially look forward to working with him to advance farmland protection, provide farmers the tools to address climate change, create a more inclusive agricultural system, and widen the doors of participation to a new, diverse generation of producers.”
Doug O’Brien, the president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International — “We support Tom Vilsack’s nomination for secretary of Agriculture. His depth of experience and commitment to rural and agricultural communities ensures he will be an effective leader at this critical time.”
“NCBA CLUSA and the cooperative community stand ready to work with Secretary Vilsack and his team as they seek to rebuild rural communities, strengthen racial equity and address climate change. Secretary Vilsack understands what rural Americans know: cooperatives have been a key strategy empowering people in rural America in the past, and the cooperative business model is as relevant now as ever.”
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper — “Tom Vilsack is an excellent choice to serve in this role. During his last term as secretary, he has shown clearly and continually that he can work effectively with the broad spectrum of interests who have a stake in the wide body of issues under USDA’s portfolio, including renewable fuels. We are especially happy to have someone in the Biden administration who intimately understands the crucial role renewable fuels and agriculture can play in confronting climate change.”
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw — “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 Secretary 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.”
American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings — “We congratulate Tom Vilsack on his nomination to once again lead USDA and know that he will hit the ground running.”
“Secretary Vilsack was the most effective advocate the biofuels industry had in the Obama administration and we are excited about working with him again, particularly with helping get the RFS back on track, continued infrastructure support for higher ethanol blends, and making sure farmers and biofuel producers are part of the solution to future policies designed to tackle climate change.”
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor — “We congratulate Mr. Vilsack and are pleased that the Biden transition team has chosen such a steadfast champion of rural America to lead USDA.”
“After years of public and private service to the agriculture community, Vilsack is intimately familiar with the benefits biofuels present for reaching a net-zero carbon future and the economic vitality the industry provides to rural America. He has been a tireless champion of the biofuels industry over his career and his advocacy has been crucial, including most recently during the Iowa caucuses, where we were proud to have had him join Growth Energy on tours with the president-elect and other candidates at our member plants.
“We are looking forward to working with the incoming administration and Mr. Vilsack to build on the success of biofuels as a solution to our climate goals, providing American drivers access to a cleaner fuel option, and supporting rural economies.”
National Association of Conservation Districts President Tim Palmer and President-elect Michael Crowder — “On behalf of America’s 3,000 conservation districts and the more than 17,000 district officials who serve on their governing boards, we congratulate Secretary Vilsack on this nomination.
“Secretary Vilsack has a proven track record of championing conservation at USDA and working with conservation districts in every part of the country. NACD looks forward to again working with him and his staff in the incoming administration to further voluntary, locally-led conservation.”
Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association — “The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come. As WIC providers continue to adapt to meet the needs of families, the National WIC Association looks forward to partnering with longtime friend and WIC champion –– Secretary Tom Vilsack.”
“Given his eight years leading USDA under President Obama, Secretary Vilsack will be able to hit the ground running. His commitment to WIC’s public health nutrition mission will ensure that science-based reforms to enhance the food options for WIC families will continue to have their intended effect on enhancing diet quality and addressing childhood obesity rates.
“Of this I am confident, he understands the challenges that WIC families face and he will work to ensure that WIC’s essential role in growing healthy young children and getting them ready to learn is a top priority at USDA.
“Secretary Vilsack will once again have the opportunity to strengthen the nutritional quality of WIC foods by advancing a new review of the WIC food packages, while also taking steps to prioritize vital technology reforms like online purchasing and remote certifications. Secretary Vilsack will be a forward-thinking leader on nutrition programs and a steadfast ally as WIC adapts to a new decade of serving expectant and new parents, babies, and young children.”
Billy Shore, founder and executive chairman of Share Our Strength, which lobbies on child hunger issues — “On behalf of Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry campaign, I would like to congratulate Tom Vilsack on his nomination to become the next Secretary of Agriculture.”
“Secretary Vilsack is a long-standing champion of children and families in need in this nation, with a proven record of action on their behalf. And, at a time when record numbers of children are facing hunger as the COVID pandemic rages on, his deep knowledge of programs and the department will allow him to bring swift, immediate focus to that crisis.”
But Family Farm Action, a Missouri-based farm group that has been critical of federal farm policy, said, “Today, president elect Biden announced big food lobbyist Tom Vilsack as his choice for USDA secretary.”
“Vilsack will be returning to USDA after having served during the Obama administration, working to further globalize our food system for the benefit of a handful of monopoly corporations.
“We need a new direction at USDA: one that supports resilient local and regional food systems and provides opportunity for all farmers.
“To that end, Family Farm Action has pushed forward its top policy recommendations for Vilsack, which will address some of Vilsack’s historic shortcomings including, but not limited to, systemic discrimination against Black farmers, failure to enact meaningful antitrust laws, and lack of transparency in the use of checkoff program funds.”
Several Black farm and civil rights leaders focused on the Agriculture Department expressed anger that Biden had picked Vilsack, Politico reported.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., told Biden in a meeting this week that nominating Vilsack “could have a disastrous impact on voters in Georgia” because of Vilsack’s firing of Shirley Sherrod, the head of the USDA rural development office in Georgia, when he served as the department’s secretary during the Obama administration,The New York Times reported.
Biden dismissed the concerns, and said people would soon hear more about Vilsack’s record, the Times said.
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