Biden to nominate ex-Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for USDA secretary

Mr Joe Biden has also selected Ms Marcia Fudge to be secretary of housing and urban development, Politico reported.
Mr Joe Biden has also selected Ms Marcia Fudge to be secretary of housing and urban development, Politico reported.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (REUTERS) - US President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for agriculture secretary, Axios reported on Tuesday (Dec 8), citing people familiar with the matter.

The Biden transition office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Mr Vilsack, who led the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under former President Barack Obama, could not immediately be reached.

His spokeswoman, Ms Regina Black, declined to comment "as an official announcement hasn't been made."

Mr Vilsack's return to the USDA is likely to be applauded by Midwestern states that produce the bulk of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, and prefer him to someone from another region of the country.

The Farm Belt was battered by President Donald Trump's trade war with China and waivers that exempted oil refiners from obligations to use corn-based ethanol.

But Midwestern farmers also received an unprecedented amount of direct farm subsidies under Mr Trump even as coronavirus stimulus for millions of other Americans stalled in Congress.

Mr Vilsack, who is chief executive of the US Dairy Export Council, actively campaigned for Mr Biden in farm states, acting as his rural and agriculture adviser during the election.

Iowa governor from 1999 to 2007, he is seen by establishment Democrats as a politically safe choice, largely because of his moderate politics, previous experience, and long-standing, friendly relationships with large-scale farmers.

A coalition of progressive food, farming and environmental advocacy groups promoted rival candidates.

Top among them was Ohio Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge, who would have been the first Black woman to fill the role and was expected to increase the department's focus on small farmers, global environmental changes, and racial and economic diversity.

Mr Biden has selected Ms Fudge to be secretary of housing and urban development, Politico reported.

"Vilsack is not what the USDA and our country needs to help make US agriculture more sustainable and resilient in the time of climate crisis," said Mr Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the Centre for Food Safety.