President-elect Joe Biden is expected to choose Tom Vilsack as the new U.S. secretary of agriculture.
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, previously served in the position for eight years during the Obama administration. He’s the longest-serving person in the position since Orville Freeman left in 1969.
Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, likes Vilsack’s years of experience.
“Secretary Vilsack has a long relationship with President-elect Biden, and certainly, of any of the candidates, there's no one that knows USDA better than Secretary Vilsack,” Larew says.
Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, says Vilsack has a long history of serving farmers and ranchers in Iowa. Both Lehman and Larew say they hope Vilsack would tackle issues like increasing consolidation.
“This bottleneck limits our options for what we purchase as inputs and where we can sell our products on the market,” Lehman says. “And so dealing with this level of concentration will be extremely important.”
Oklahoma Farm Bureau president Rodd Moesal says their bureau has worked with Vilsack in the past, but it will take work to re-establish the connection with Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
“There's a little bit of concern that most of his familiarity and his main contacts, and a lot of times the leaders … are from mainly corn and soybean states,” Moesal says. “And so we have to fight a little bit harder to make sure that he understands the issues and the needs of the southern crops and the commodities that we grow in our part of the country.”