Agriculture Secretary First Of Obama’s Cabinet To Leave Town

REUTERS/Larry Downing

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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Tom Vilsack, President Obama’s secretary of agriculture, left Washington, D.C., Friday, and announced to staff that he won’t be back before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Politico reports.

The former Iowa governor is already on a plane to his home state, Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff members told the Associated Press. Michael Scuse, acting undersecretary for agriculture, will lead the agency of 90,000 staffers until the new administration takes over.

The longest serving member of Obama’s administration and the last remaining member of Obama’s original cabinet, Vilsack was confirmed the day of Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. He leaves the USDA before Trump even nominates his replacement.

In a farewell message to agency staff, Vilsack said the department “allows America to have the most productive farmers, ranchers, and producers in the world.” From ensuring “that struggling families have enough to eat” to fighting “against the destruction of invasive species and diseases while insuring against losses that occur when storms, droughts, and floods occur,” Vilsack said the USDA staff  is”part of an extraordinary group of people who proudly and honorably serve the greatest nation on earth.”

Vilsack’s departure marks the beginning of the Obama administration’s exodus from the capitol as government operations are handed over to the Trump team. Vilsack has criticized the Trump Transition’s lack of attention to the USDA, and says the failure to nominate his replacement early will handicap the next agriculture secretary.

“I just think it puts the incoming secretary in a tough spot,” Vilsack said in a statement about Trump’s delay in nominating a secretary of agriculture.

“When that individual is named, he or she will be at a tremendous disadvantage, in terms of getting up to speed on all this department does.”

Vilsack didn’t mention in his email to staff why he is leaving a week early. He is rumored to have a job running the Dairy Export Council, according to Agri-Pulse.

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