President-elect Joe Biden surprised everyone when he nominated Tom Vilsack for USDA Secretary. Vilsack held the position in the Obama administration for all eight years–the longest in the administration.
When I heard the news I shrugged; it seems like a safe pick (I’m not complaining). Vilsack was fairly uncontroversial during his first stint, despite some hot topics surfacing during his tenure.
GMO labeling was probably the most controversial topic Vilsack handled. If you recall, Vermont’s chaotic law was about to go into effect. Vilsack ruffled organic feathers when he acknowledged the law was a mess. Initially it leaked that USDA may create a national non-GMO label. And Vilsack floated a smart-phone solution.
But as we know, Congress went on to pass a national GMO labeling law. Secretary Sonny Perdue‘s USDA revealed the absolutely brilliant labels and rules in 2018. I’ll be incredibly disappointed if Vilsack does something different. Though it’s unlikely. At this point it’s probably too late in the game to make drastic changes.
Vilsack also led a White House Rural Council meant to connect rural businesses and entrepreneurs with investors. He teamed up with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and her effort to change school-lunch programs. He also oversaw implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act.
Vilsack was previously governor of Iowa. He later ran for president, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Vilsack spent his time since leaving USDA working for the U.S. Dairy Export Council. He weighed in on the Trump administration’s newly negotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico saying it gave the industry “greater confidence.”
Overall I’m comfortable with Vilsack’s nomination. I’m not worried that he’s going to do anything too drastic or radical. And it honestly feels like a continuation from 2017. On the other hand, will he be able to help an industry that’s struggling economically? We’ll have to wait and see.