Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed in February as the new U.S. secretary of agriculture, comes to the position with a wealth of experience – which is a good thing because agriculture is facing some important challenges, noted Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron.
“He’s a known quantity, he knows how to listen to farmers, and as a former secretary of agriculture and former governor of a farm state, he understands agriculture’s issues,” Kron said.
Vilsack served as secretary of agriculture for eight years during the Obama administration and prior to that, he served eight years as the governor of Iowa. He was confirmed by the Senate as the Biden administration’s ag secretary on a 92-7 vote.
Of the challenges Vilsack will need to address soon, Kron said the most time-sensitive are the issues caused by the pandemic, including the increased demand on food assistance programs and the need to get workers in meat plants and other food-producing facilities vaccinated as soon as possible.
'He’s got to get the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program back up and running again,” Kron noted. USDA has extended the CFAP application period in response to a letter from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Also of immediate importance is working toward new trade partnerships as well as increasing exports to current trading partners. In addition, the new secretary has many vacancies to fill within the USDA. There have been a lot of retirements of veteran staff, and those vacancies need to be filled with good people, Kron said.
“He has already done some outreach to agriculture, and that’s a good sign,” Kron added.