WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted 92-7 Tuesday to confirm Tom Vilsack as Agriculture secretary, his second run at the Cabinet post.
The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same department for former President Barack Obama’s entire administration.
In his testimony, Vilsack, 70, heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying “Agriculture is one of our first and best ways to get some wins” on climate change.
He proposed “building a rural economy based on biomanufacturing” and “turning agricultural waste into a variety of products.” He pledged to work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to “spur the industry” on biofuels.
With systemic racial inequity now a nationwide talking point, Vilsack also envisioned creating an “equity taskforce” inside the department. Its job, he said, would be to identify what he called “intentional or unintentional barriers” that prevent or discourage farmers of color from properly accessing federal assistance programs.
Vilsack also heavily backed the SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps — as a key instrument in helping the country’s most vulnerable families survive and recover from the pandemic era. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists.
He faced minimal opposition throughout the confirmation process.
U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. issued the following statement after voting to confirm Tom Vilsack as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
“Secretary Tom Vilsack’s background as a governor and of course as the former Secretary of Agriculture make him a good fit to lead the USDA during these unprecedented times for our farmers and ranchers. While we may have our differences on a handful of issues, I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Secretary Vilsack and the entire USDA team as we help Kansas producers navigate COVID-19 and as we look toward crafting the next farm bill.”