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Biden to Nominate Vilsack for Return to USDA


December 9, 2020

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for agriculture secretary, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

Vilsack, who led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under former President Barack Obama, has a long relationship with Biden and served as a trusted adviser on rural issues during his campaign.

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.

His spokeswoman, Regina Black, declined to comment "as an official announcement hasn't been made." The Biden transition office did not respond to a requests for comment on the choice.

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 Trump even as coronavirus stimulus for millions of other Americans stalled in Congress.

Vilsack is the chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and actively campaigned for Biden in farm states.

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

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



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