Washington, D.C. — Today, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he will nominate Tom Vilsack as secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Following the announcement, Mara Rudman, executive vice president for Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Secretary Vilsack returns to the USDA with the experience to immediately hit the ground running. He now has the opportunity to lead the department into a new era by tackling some of the country’s most urgent challenges: hunger, corporate concentration in farming, and rural poverty.
The USDA has an important role to play in alleviating poverty and creating agricultural policy that ensures that every American has enough to eat. Secretary Vilsack returns to the agency at a crucial time, when COVID-19 continues to exacerbate America’s long-standing hunger crisis. I know that Secretary Vilsack will invest in efforts to restore, strengthen, and expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program. Secretary Vilsack also has the opportunity to reaffirm his long-standing commitment to rural America by establishing a well-resourced Rural Opportunity Administration within the USDA that works hand-in-hand with these communities to foster rural development.
Secretary Vilsack’s appointment also offers an opportunity to address long-standing issues at the USDA that have only grown worse under President Donald Trump, such as systemic racism and monopolization in big agriculture. For decades, rural communities have suffered from a USDA that has prioritized large agricultural companies over the well-being of the people who live in rural America. Secretary Vilsack has the opportunity to turn the tide and rebuild a USDA that becomes a potent driver of poverty alleviation and makes a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Americans.
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