Secretary Vilsack Takes Bell Lap

Dec 9, 2016  | 4 min  | Ep4216

As appointments in the new administration continue to be made, one cabinet member’s tenure is coming to an end. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is taking a final run around the track after serving in the nation’s highest agricultural office. As the 30th person to hold the post, Vilsack joins an elite club of only 4 who have held the position for 8 or more years. Peter Tubbs reports.

As he completes an 8-year run, Secretary Vilsack promised that the USDA will ‘run through the tape” of the current administration’s final lap in office.

Vilsack discussed a laundry list of past accomplishments at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, including  the growth of ethanol:

“The recent RFS announcement gets us to the 15 billion gallon mark, I think it restores the confidence and faith in the RFS.”

 Reducing rural poverty and unemployment, his recent task force on opioid addiction, trade:

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “Farmers understand this. And they understand it because trade impacts their bottom line”

And improvements in rural clean water.

The Secretary took the opportunity to build on past clean water programs by announcing the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers initiative, or CLEAR program.  

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “And what this program will do, is it will provide resources from CRP to assist in the cost of bioreactors and saturated buffers. This will be two additional tools we will add to the tool chest of CRP. Under this program we will provide a 90 percent cost share. The only qualifications the land be adjacent to water.”

The incoming Trump administration has pledged to tackle immigration, but Vilsack encouraged comprehensive reform.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “Everybody knows it's broken, it needs to be fixed. We need to secure the border. But we also have to create some kind of stability in this workforce, particularly in the agricultural space. Because 70 percent of our food is touched at some point in time by an immigrant hand and a substantial number of those folks came here, probably without authority, but need some kind of pathway to legitimacy.”

Later in the day, Vilsack accepted the Norman Borlaug Medallion at the World Food Prize Headquarters in recognition of the work USDA has done in training students for careers in agriculture, especially in developing economies. He challenged students improve the world’s political stability through food security.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: "I'm challenging you to think big, to think bold. To think like Norman did, how can I help? How can I be part of the solution? How can I bridge the gap between those who understand agriculture and those who don’t? How can I make a safer world though agriculture? How can I feed the hungry? How can I be a great humanitarian?"

The Secretary also reflected on the arc of his career as an elected official.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “I have been incredibly blessed by the state of Iowa. There is no reason why a kid from Pennsylvania should have had the opportunities I’ve had, but for the generosity and the openness and the willingness of the people of this state to give me a chance to serve as a Mayor, to serve as a State Senator and as a Governor.  I certainly will always be indebted to President Obama for giving me the chance to serve him and the country in this position.”


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