Vilsack, 70, was nominated to lead the agency on Dec. 19, 2020, by then-President Elect Joe Biden. Vilsack succeeds former USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue who led the agency during the Trump Administration.
With his appointment, Vilsack takes the reigns for second time in his career. He was the longest-serving member of President Obama’s original Cabinet. He now oversees USDA’s 29 agencies, nearly 100,000 employees and a budget exceeding $146 billion.
Vilsack’s policies will be focused on four key area: climate change, food security and nutrition, market fairness and racial inequality. “If confirmed, I will take bold action and work with this committee to address discrimination in all its forms across USDA agencies, offices and programs. I will ensure all programming is equitable and work to root out generations of systemic racism that disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous and people of color. I will build the most diverse team in the Department’s history, one that looks like America, and will extend that commitment across all USDA agencies and offices,” Vilsack said during his confirmation hearings.
Commenting on Vilsack’s approval by the Senate, House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott said: “I applaud the Senate for approving Secretary Tom Vilsack to head the Department of Agriculture for a second time. I am excited about working with him and his staff to ensure that USDA works to support our farmers in an equitable way. I look forward to Secretary Vilsack joining us at our House Agriculture Committee hearings over the course of his tenure to provide critical updates on the important work of USDA.”
Between cabinet appointments, Vilsack served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) from 2017 until February 2021. During his tenure at USDEC, he provided strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC’s global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. In addition to his post at USDEC, he also served as a strategic adviser to Colorado State University’s food and water initiatives.
Prior to his appointment, he served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, served in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and his law degree from Albany Law School in New York.