Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BREAKING, UPDATED: Vilsack to be secretary of agriculture, giving Obama a real 'Team of Rivals'

Citing unnamed sources, Mike Glover of The Associated Press bureau in Des Moines reports that President-elect Barack Obama will appoint former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack secretary of agriculture. "Last month, Vilsack dismissed rumors that he would take the position," AP notes. "He said in an e-mail that he had never been contacted by Obama or his aides." (Read more)

The Des Moines Register reports it has a source confirming the appointment, completing (in basketball terms) the "Team of Rivals" discussed since Obama's selection of Joe Biden for vice president, Hillary Clinton for secretary of state and Bill Richardson for commerce secretary. Vilsasck ran briefly for president, then endorsed Clinton and "campaigned aggressively" for her until Obama sewed up the nomination, the Register's Thomas Beaumont notes. (Iowa Politics photo shows Vilsack dropping out of the race.)

Phillip Rucker and Al Kamen of The Washington Post report that Obama will announce the appointments of Vilsack and Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary tomorrow. Beaumont gives the time: 10:45 a.m. Central.

AP has a profile of Vilsack, noting his political career "began as a small-town mayor forced into the job because of a sensational shooting spree," in which the mayor of Mount Pleasant, population 8,700, was killed by an angry constituent. Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native who had joined his father-in-law's legal practice, "was appointed mayor of the largely Republican city." (Encarta map)

The Register's Washington reporter, Philip Brasher, weighs in with a fast analysis noting that Iowa gets more farm-subsidy money than any other state and Vilsack is "sympathetic to big agribusiness that dominates Iowa and a believer in biofuels and agricultural biotechnology. In short, Vilsack is not likely to shift the U.S. Agriculture Department in the radical new direction as many of Obama’s liberal supporters had hoped." But Vilsack "could prove to be a reformer" in tackling two topics important in Iowa, "managing the growth of the biofuels industry" and addressing a National Academy of Sciences recommendation to limit use, in the Mississippi River watershed, of fertilizers that cause a recurring dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. (Read more)

National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, whom reformers had pushed for secretary, said in a statement: "I think Gov. Vilsack is a great choice and I look forward to working with him. Being from Iowa, Gov. Vilsack has an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in rural America." For more from Nebraska Rural Radio, click here.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I sat down with Gov. Vilsack a couple weeks ago and discussed politics, governing and agriculture. As a farmer from Scott County, I was interested in what he had to say. Yet, he was expectantly hesitant to discuss the possibility of appointment to Sec. of Ag. He seems like a decent guy and he had a lot of advice to offer to a kid who paid for college with tobacco leaves.