Former ag secretary Tom Vilsack is now Biden’s frontrunner for the same position
A clear frontrunner has emerged in president-elect Joe Biden’s search for a new USDA chief: Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary for eight years under Obama, is a “strong favorite” to return to the role, according to a Politico report.
Vilsack is a familiar face, a close Biden ally, and the preferred choice among the president-elect’s inner circle, Politico’s sources say. But his nomination would likely face opposition from Democrats who want to see the incoming administration embrace more progressive policies—including a willingness to take on systemic racism in U.S. food and agriculture. Vilsack claimed that USDA ushered in a “new era for civil rights” under his watch—but a 2019 investigation by The Counter revealed those accomplishments to be based on false claims and misleading data. Other reported contenders for the role include former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, viewed as a centrist choice, and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, generally favored by the party’s progressive wing. At Mother Jones, Tom Philpott has more on what Biden’s choice for USDA head may signal about his priorities.