Biden Reportedly Picks Obama’s Agriculture Secretary To Lead USDA

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Adam Barnes General Assignment Reporter
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President-elect Joe Biden picked Tom Vilsack to run the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Politico reported Tuesday.

Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, served as former President Barack Obama’s USDA head for eight years. Vilsack has led the U.S. Dairy Export Council, an overseas industry advocacy group, since the end of the Obama administration, according to Politico.

Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday he will support Biden’s pick and will speak on Vilsack’s behalf before the Senate if called upon.

“I liked what Vilsack did as the secretary of agriculture for eight years, and if he was in for another four years, it would be OK with me,” Grassley said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I would be glad, if he wants me to, to speak for him before the Agriculture Committee.”

If confirmed, Vilsack will take over the department after the Trump administration funneled millions in aid to farmers dealing with pandemic fallout. Direct payments to farmers could reach $46 billion in 2020 alone, NPR reported.

Both Democratic North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge were under consideration for the post, The New York Times reported. Biden tapped Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (RELATED: REPORT: Biden To Select Rep. Marcia Fudge To Lead HUD)

Democratic South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn advocated for Fudge, prior to her nomination to HUD. Clyburn told The Times the USDA should serve as a department that “deals with consumer issues and nutrition and things that affect people’s day-to-day lives.” Clyburn reportedly said that Vilsack did not properly represent Black farmers in his previous stint at the USDA.

“I don’t know why we’ve got to be recycling,” Clyburn told the Times in reference to a number of Obama era appointments. “There’s a strong feeling that Black farmers didn’t get a fair shake.”

Biden could formally announce his USDA pick within the week, according to Politico.