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Vilsack confirmed as USDA chief

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Barack Obama's choice for USDA chief, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed by the Senate yesterday
President Barack Obama's choice for USDA chief, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed by the Senate yesterday

Only hours after Barack Obama was inaugurated in Washington on Tuesday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of six cabinet posts including U.S Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack.

After the unanimous voice vote, one of Vilsack's first acts as agriculture secretary was the appointment of John Norris as chief of staff and Carole Jeff as deputy chief of staff.

It is widely expected that Vilsack will use his role as USDA chief to expand the nation's biofuel system.

Although he has no formal agriculture experience, the former lawyer was previously the governor of Iowa, a strong agriculture state.

Iowa senator Tom Harkin praised the selection of Vilsack and said his experience as Iowa governor will allow him to bring much knowledge of the agriculture community to the post.

"Tom Vilsack was committed to better nutrition and providing food assistance to those who need it," said Harkin. "He built a strong record in promoting renewable energy, rural economic opportunity, and conservation. These qualifications will serve him well as he transitions into agriculture secretary.”

According to Reuters, the last farmer to serve as USDA secretary was Jack Block during the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration.

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