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Farm Groups Comment on Vilsack Appointment to USDA
USAgNet - 12/18/2008

With just a little over a month to go before the new administration takes over the White House, farmers and agribusinesses finally have an idea of what to expect when it comes to the future leadership at USDA. On Wednesday, President-elect Barack Obama introduced former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as his agriculture secretary. And the reaction from American farm groups to the selection has been mostly favorable.

Here are some of the many comments being made by U.S. commodity groups and other organizations:

AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION: During his tenure as Iowa's governor, one of the nation's top agriculture-producing states, Gov. Vilsack was an ardent supporter of furthering the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind, as well as an advocate for biotechnology. He has been a strong proponent of international trade and expanding our export markets. His understanding and experience with many of the pressing issues facing agriculture today will serve him well in his new position.

NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Gov. Vilsack has an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in rural America. Rural America is facing many challenges - the farm and rural economy have changed dramatically for the worst over the last few months as a result of the worldwide economic recession, the rules for the 2008 Farm Bill have not been finalized nor implemented, more people are seeking food assistance, and commodity prices have fallen dramatically while farmer input costs remain high.

NATIONAL CORN GROWERS ASSOCIATION: Governor Vilsack understands the opportunities and challenges facing the corn industry today. During his eight years as Governor of Iowa, Vilsack was active on a number of issues affecting corn growers. He chaired the Governors Ethanol Coalition, Governors Biotechnology Partnership, and the National Governors Association's Natural Resources Committee, which handles agriculture and energy policies. He also chaired the Democratic Governors Association in 2004. Tom Vilsack served as Governor of Iowa from 1999-2007. Throughout the past several months, NCGA has worked closely with the Obama transition team on issues important to growers. NCGA will continue to build on those relationships with Tom Vilsack and his staff.

AMERICAN SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION: Vilsack is the first Iowan chosen for the key Cabinet post since Henry A. Wallace, a noted farm editor and agriculturalist, was named to the post in 1933. As Governor, Vilsack was an early and strong advocate for renewable fuels, including soy biodiesel, as well as biotechnology, which is so important to modern agriculture. Coming from an ag state that is number one in soybeans, corn, pork, turkey and egg production, Tom Vilsack recognizes the importance of agriculture on the U.S. economy.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WHEAT GROWERS: Throughout the campaign and transition period, the Obama staff and the President-elect himself have shown genuine interest in hearing the views of American farmers, and we think these nominations reflect that engagement. Gov. Vilsack has been vocal in his support of agricultural biotechnology; renewable fuels that will help break our dependence on foreign oil; agriculture's participation in what he calls a carbon-efficient economy; and agriculture's role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through soil carbon sequestration.

U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL: This honor bestowed upon Mr. Vilsack as the 30th Secretary marks an important occurrence in the history of our industry. The members and leadership of the U.S. Grains Council have been dedicated to working cooperatively with USDA, especially with the Foreign Agricultural Service, for nearly 50 years and we look forward to continuing this invaluable relationship during the new administration for the good of U.S. barley, corn and sorghum growers, agribusinesses and the entire agricultural community.

NATIONAL MILK PRODUCERS FEDERATION: After serving as Iowa's governor for eight years, Tom Vilsack clearly has the managerial skills necessary to run a large, complex agency, like the Department of Agriculture. More importantly, because of the diversity of agriculture in Iowa, former governor Vilsack has had direct exposure to the policies and politics of many of the issues that he'll be faced with in the coming years. These include balancing competing needs in the areas of farm program payments, environmental regulations, renewable fuels mandates, trade policy, and more. Agriculture is not immune to the recession hurting the global economy, and there will be many challenges, economic and otherwise, facing USDA's leaders starting right away in 2009.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: Vilsack is a solid choice for America's next Secretary of Agriculture. He recognizes that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating climate change. He is a strong supporter of a cap and trade program for greenhouse gases, carbon offsets, and other measures to help stop global warming. We think he’ll be a great addition to the Obama Administration's environmental team.

Also commenting was House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who said Vilsack is "a strong advocate who understands the changing landscape of our nation's rural economy."

Vilsack, 58, was elected as Iowa's governor in 1998, the first Democrat to win the office in 32 years. He was re-elected in 2002. Now an attorney at the Dorsey Trial group, Vilsack endorsed New York Senator Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary campaign after ending his own presidential bid in February 2007, before the first contest took place.

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