Senate confirms Tom Vilsack will serve again as agriculture secretary

The vote was 92-7.

Vilsack, 70, will now be tasked with helping farmers affected by former President Donald Trump’s trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened thousands of workers in meatpacking plants and deepened the challenges of hunger and food insecurity.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Vilsack made clear that the challenges facing the Department of Agriculture are different than they were 12 years ago.

“The world and our nation are different today than when I served as secretary of agriculture in a previous administration,” Vilsack said. “Today, the pandemic, racial justice and equity, and climate change must be our priorities.”

Biden announced the election in December, praising Vilsack for his efforts to implement the Recovery Act after the Great Recession, expanding markets for farmers, improving food safety standards and helping “millions of children and families receive meals. healthy “. Former President Barack Obama also chose Vilsack to address the scourge of heroin and the use of other opiates in rural communities.

Biden called him: “The best secretary of agriculture I think this country has ever had.”

Vilsack will have to overcome the caution of progressive groups who have claimed that Vilsack is too close to agricultural corporations. Vilsack also encountered opposition from civil rights groups, who criticized the firing of Shirley Sherrod, a black agriculture department official, more than a decade ago after Breitbart posted a misleading video clip that falsely suggested she was a racist. (Vilsack apologized and tried to hire her.)

Vilsack will be pressured to address the needs of rural communities who overwhelmingly supported Trump over Biden and are concerned that Democrats will pass new regulations.

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders joined six Republicans in voting against the nomination.

“I think we need someone a little more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate farming,” Sanders told reporters. “I think it will be fine, but not as strong as I would like.”

Vilsack and his wife Christie supported Biden during the Iowa caucuses and aggressively campaigned for him. Biden finished in fourth place, which he called at the time “a punch to the stomach,” but repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the Vilsacks for their support.

In 1998, Vilsack became the first Democratic governor-elect of Iowa in more than 30 years. He served as governor from 1999 to 2007 and chaired the Democratic Governors Association for a year. In 2009, the Senate unanimously confirmed Vilsack as secretary of agriculture.

After resigning in 2017, Vilsack became president and CEO of the US Dairy Export Council. Last year, he won a $ 150,000 Powerball prize in the Iowa Lottery.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CNN Ted Barrett, Arlette Saenz, and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.


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