Vilsack is Back

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is the latest cabinet member to official join the Biden Administration. Vice President Kamala Harris swore Vilsack in over Zoom. Vilsack will go down in history as the 30th and 32nd agriculture secretary, having been in that role during the eight years of the Obama Administration.

Working remotely from Iowa, the agriculture secretary acknowledged there’s a lot to do with little time to do it. A top priority is the coronavirus pandemic, and USDA is reviewing how the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is administered.

“In the meantime, we’re making payments under CFAP 2. The next round of CFAP is under review. We felt it was necessary to extend the sign-up period during the evaluation.” Vilsack said once determinations are made for the next round of CFAP, program sign-up will be extended another 30 days.

When it comes to climate change, Vilsack said USDA will be as helpful as possible to providing resources, technical assistance and verify conservation practices.

Watch the video.

Vilsack Faces Senate Ag Committee

On Groundhog Day, Agriculture Secretary-nominee Tom Vilsack found himself back in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee for a confirmation hearing. Vilsack is returning to the job he previously held for eight years during the Obama Administration. The former Iowa governor kicked off the hearing by saying this is a fundamentally different time in agriculture.
“I recognize the unprecedented challenge we face with COVID and while pursuing these ‘why not’ opportunities will not shirk the duties and responsibilities of the Department.”
Regarding the use of Commodity Credit Corporation funds, Vilsack said he’d ask for the same flexibility that was given to Secretary Sonny Perdue. Climate change, food security and market transparency were also highlighted.

Potential Biden Administration Picks are Rolling In

Speculation has begun over the possible cabinet picks in a Joe Biden presidential administration. Former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp is getting most of the attention for the top job at USDA. Both Bloomberg and Politico have named Heitkamp as the likely choice for Agriculture Secretary. Other contenders include Illinois Representative Cheri Bustos, Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge, former Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden, the former agricultural negotiator in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, Darci Vetter and California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.
In addition to USDA, there are other cabinet positions that impact agriculture. The names being highlighted by the national media for the EPA administrator include the chairperson of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols, the senior director of the Mom’s Clean Air Force Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and National Wildlife Federation CEO Collin O’Mara. For the U.S. Trade Representative cabinet post, candidates include California Congressman Jimmy Gomez, former USTR general counsel Jennifer Hillman, former deputy trade representative Miriam Sapiro and McLarty Associates President and CEO Nelson Cunningham.