February 4, 2021

Tom Vilsack outlines areas of future focus for USDA

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry met Feb. 2 to hold a hearing on the nomination of Tom Vilsack to become the Secretary of Agriculture.

Vilsack, who is expected to be confirmed, addressed what areas of focus will be for the U.S. Department of Agriculture under his leadership. Vilsack was the Secretary of Agriculture during both of Barack Obama’s terms as president from 2009-17. Times have changed, Vilsack said, and so has he.

Tom Vilsack

“It is a different time, I’m a different person and it’s a different department,” Vilsack.

Vilsack said the USDA faces a series of “why not?” moments, a reference to Robert F. Kennedy’s famous quote. Vilsack cited four key areas of focus:

  • Climate change
  • Food security and nutrition
  • Market fairness
  • Racial inequity

“We need nutrition in food security that causes millions of Americans, especially people of color, to cope with obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases,” he said. “I think we can create a food system that makes healthy, nutritious foods more available, more convenient and more affordable to all Americans.”

Vilsack also pledged to create more opportunities and assistance for people of color within USDA programs.

“We need to fully, deeply and completely address the long-standing inequities on fairness and discrimination that have been the history of USDA programs for far too long,” he said.

On the subject of climate change, he added: “We have an opportunity to create new markets and incentives for soil health, carbon sequestration and methane capture and reuse by building a rural economy based on biomanufacturing, protecting our forests and turning waste materials into new chemicals, materials, fabrics and fibers, creating more jobs in rural America, more stability and also reducing emissions.”

The bipartisan committee voted unanimously to recommend that Vilsack be confirmed when the full Senate vote takes place.

The full hearing can be viewed here.

New committee members named

With control of the Senate changing to the Democratic Party, there will be a new committee chair, which will be Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). John Boozman (R-Arkansas) will serve as Ranking Member, which Stabenow did formerly.

In addition, five new members of the Senate have joined the committee. They are:

  • Cory Booker (D-New Jersey)
  • Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico)
  • Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), who was recently elected to the Senate in a Georgia runoff election
  • Roger Marshall (R-Kansas)
  • Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama)

Lujan, Marshall and Tuberville also are new members of the Senate. Marshall fills the seat of Pat Roberts, the previous ag committee chair. Roberts did not run for re-election, opting to retire.

— Zeke Jennings, managing editor


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