Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama says Tom Vilsack and Ken Salazar will help him make his rural agenda 'America's agenda'

Naming his interior and agriculture secretaries this morning, President-elect Barack Obama said "I am confident we have the team we need to make the rural agenda America's agenda." As reported here yesterday, Obama said his agriculture secretary will be Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa and the interior boss will be Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, who wore a cowboy hat and a string tie to the announcement. (Associated Press photo)

Obama called the two "as accomplished a pair of public servants as we have in America." As usual, he took three questions at the press conference; most of the discussion dealt with Interior Department issues, because a CBS reporter asked about Obama's delay in releasing contacts his staff had with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Tom Beaumont of The Des Moines Register asked what happened since Vilsack told the Register last month that he hadn't been contacted by the transition team and didn't expect to get the job. "I dont know who led him to believe that," Obama said. "Whoever did that was misinformed."

The third question also went to a home-state reporter, Karen Crummy of The Denver Post, who asked Obama what he meant when he said he envisioned and expanded role for the interior secretary. Obama said the "deeply troubled" department has "been seen as an appendage of commercial interests as opposed to a place where the values and interests of the American people are served." He said he wants the agency to be "at the cutting edge of environment and energy policy so commercial interests are just one group among many groups that are being listened to."

Vilsack said the Agriculture Department "must expand opportunities for rural communities." Obama said Vilsack has been "fiercely protective of family farms and the farm economy" but also "forward-looking," pushing development of cellulosic ethanol and wind and solar power "to give a boost to our rural economies."

Jim Wiesemeyer of Washington-based Informa Economics tells Ken Anderson of Brownfield Network that suring his brief presidential campaign last year, Vilsack "suggested maybe reducing some of the more traditional farm subsidies and moving them more toward the water and conservation payments area, and to the alternative energy area." (Read more)

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