Biden’s Selection of Vilsack For USDA Secretary Considered “Status Quo”

Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack served as Obama’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary. Vilsack’s ties to corporate agribusiness made him very acceptable to farm-state lawmakers according to He was voted Monsanto’s “Biotech Governor of the Year” inclined to approve bio-tech crops rather than support organic farmers. President-elect Biden hopes his selection of Vilsack to head USDA will be a safe choice.

Agribusiness corporations and commodity farmers may welcome Vilsack’s return to USDA, but many fear his nomination is a step backwards. When Vilsack lead the USDA, thousands of farmers complained of unfair prices they paid in a highly consolidated market. While at USDA Vilsack failed to reverse decades of institutional racism against Black farmers. USDA was called “the last plantation”. Also under Vilsack, the agency faced numerous discrimination claims involving Black, Hispanic, Indian and females farmers.

Vilsack’s firing of Shirley Sharrod, a respected civil rights leader and former head of USDA Rural Development in Georgia brought pressure from farm, environmental, labor and hunger groups urging Biden to nominate Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge for USDA Secretary, a position Fudge was well qualified for and actively pursued. “We need someone with vision for a just food system,” said Joe Maxwell, president of Family Farm Action. “I wanted someone new” at USDA said.John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association.

Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association said “during Vilsack’s eight years at USDA, he never met with his organization, which represents about 75,000 Latino farmers. “Any change in administration is an opportunity to strike in a new direction”, said Ricardo Salvadore at Union of Concerned Scientists. “Going back to a USDA secretary of the past is not the way to strike in a new direction”. He continued, saying “That is status quo.”


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