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FBN economist looks at pros and cons of Vilsack’s return to USDA

IARN — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture nominee Tom Vilsack has had a smooth confirmation process thus far. An economist with the Farmers Business Network recently discussed what Vilsack’s second stint as the head of USDA may mean for farmers.

FBN chief economist Kevin McNew says most people know where Vilsack stands given his 8-year run as USDA chief under the Obama administration and as a former governor of Iowa. McNew says Vilsack is widely regarded as a friend of the establishment, but that President Biden may push him to be more environmentally friendly as well.

“Vilsack comes with some baggage around his government actions in the Obama administration,” McNew said. “Some of it became front and center this time around with race relations and equity around minority farmers and things like that. He has some of that to clean up from his first term with Obama.”

McNew says Vilsack was scrutinized in 2010 for antitrust issues.

“The USDA under Tom Vilsack launched a listening tour across the Midwest in 2010,” McNew said. “A lot of farmers voiced their opinions around how anticompetitive behavior and consolidation was harming them. At the end of the day, Vilsack didn’t really deliver anything on those meetings.”

However, McNew noted that Vilsack is considered a safe pick and known entity to many farmers in Iowa and other Midwestern states.

“I think those in the Midwest like the fact that (Vilsack) is from the Midwest,” McNew said. “He has that Iowa background and so he is going to appeal to the broader sense of agriculture in corn and soybean country, and obviously he worked in the Dairy Export Council. I think traditional Midwest farmers are feeling a sigh of relief that they know their issues will probably still resonate with the current USDA Secretary.”

Vilsack is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate in the coming days.

Story courtesy of the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network

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