The prospect of Tom Vilsack returning to oversee U.S. agriculture is drawing praise from some farmers who are hopeful the former Democratic Iowa governor will be an ally on everything from biofuels and dairy to China and climate-friendly farming.
President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday that Vilsack is his pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Vilsack, who served eight years under Barack Obama, would be one of the country’s longest-serving USDA secretaries.
Vilsack would arrive at USDA on the heels of farmers receiving a record $47 billion this year in federal aid to make up for losses from the pandemic and President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. The industry also faces questions on the future of biofuels, food security and conservation at the same time Congress is set to begin grueling work on the next Farm Bill. Vilsack’s experience both in Washington and the Corn Belt is reassuring to some growers, even as he faces criticism from environmental and civil rights groups.
“Vilsack is a positive for agriculture,” said Dan Cekander, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer in central Illinois who voted for Trump in 2016, but backed Biden this year after disappointment in the current administration’s approach on corn-based ethanol.