Vilsack to Tout Dairy Exports

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Four days off his old job, former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was announced as the new president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

The information had been leaked weeks ago, though Vilsack had declined to confirm his plans before leaving office. The U.S. Dairy Export Council confirmed the hire in a news release Tuesday morning. Vilsack will start his new position Feb. 1.

Vilsack, 66, was outgoing President Barack Obama’s longest-serving cabinet member before resigning last week. President-elect Donald Trump has yet to name a replacement to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The former Agriculture secretary goes from overseeing USDA’s numerous checkoff programs to now working for a group funded by a checkoff program that is overseen by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Vilsack’s job will be to oversee the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s global promotion and research, as well as handle regulatory affairs and trade policy. He will also essentially be the USDEC’s main spokesperson and ambassador.

"Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers. I’ve spent my career in public service as a tireless advocate for farmers and American agriculture and can think of no better way to continue this service than by leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council," Vilsack said. "I look forward to partnering with the dynamic team at USDEC as well as agriculture, food industry and key stakeholders at home and abroad to advance the council’s mission and strengthen trust in American dairy."

The U.S. Dairy Export Council, based in Arlington, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C., also works closely with other dairy organizations, including the National Milk Producers Federation, the International Dairy Foods Association and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Vilsack will be coordinating dairy promotion and research activities with these various groups.

"Secretary Vilsack is a proven leader on global issues ranging from child nutrition and food security to biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He shares the dairy community’s commitment to advancing responsible solutions to global challenges and collaboration across the industry," said Paul Rovey, USDEC Chairman and Arizona dairy farmer.

Vilsack replaced Tom Suber, who retired at the end of 2016 after serving as president of USDEC since it was started in 1995. Under Suber, export volume for U.S. dairies went from roughly 5% of production to as much as 15.5% of production.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com.

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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