WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama named Tom Vilsack the next U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary yesterday.
As the 30th head of the USDA, the former Iowa governor, 58, will replace Ed Schafer, who has held the position since Jan. 28. Vilsack comes to the USDA with experience as the former chief executive of Iowa, one of the nation’s top producers of soybeans, hogs and eggs. The state ranks second in crop value after California, according to government statistics.
Vilsack’s primary task will be to figure out how to implement the almost $300 billion, five-year farm bill that passed in June, much of which still remains to be implemented. In addition to the farm bill, the budget and biofuels, food safety and animal-welfare standards will also be prominent issues for Vilsack after a series of high profile recalls occurred this year involving Cargill beef, General Mills pizzas and the largest beef recall in U.S. history, the 143.4-million-pound recall by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co.
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