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VIDEO: Vilsack confirmed to lead USDA

Agriculture.com Staff 01/20/2009 @ 5:47pm

While the throngs of supporters were still lingering on the Capitol Square in Washington, DC, following President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Vilsack, one of six cabinet members to be confirmed to his or her new post in the Obama administration, was approved by unanimous vote. Also confirmed Tuesday afternoon were Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy, Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior and Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Vilsack now takes the reins of USDA at a crucial time; Obama has long said he'd support a $250,000 hard cap on farm subsidies, something for which Vilsack's fellow Iowan Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has lobbied hard, but which has yet to become law. This is just one issue Grassley says he expects Vilsack to tackle soon now that he's confirmed.

"[We want to] make sure regulations of 'actively engaged in farming' are followed as outlined in the 2008 farm bill so that people who aren't farmers and people who are dead aren't abusing the taxpayer's dollar and receiving payments. He seemed to be sympathetic to those issues," Grassley says on his website about a conversation he had with Vilsack prior to his confirmation hearing last week. "We also talked about the lack of enforcement in the Packer and Stockards Act."


Iowa Senator and fellow Democrat Tom Harkin praised Vilsack for his past work on issues like nutrition, conservation and renewable energy as governor of Iowa, and says he's confident he'll make those issues high priorities as USDA's leader.

"As governor, Tom Vilsack was committed to better nutrition and providing food assistance to those who need it. He built a strong record in promoting renewable energy, rural economic opportunity, and conservation.  These qualifications will serve him well as he transitions into Agriculture Secretary," Harkin said Tuesday. "Tom Vilsack's confirmation today signifies new leadership for the USDA, but also a new focus on the issues important to all Americans, including nutrition, conservation, energy and promoting the rural economy."

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While the throngs of supporters were still lingering on the Capitol Square in Washington, DC, following President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

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