Tom Vilsack at Commodity Classic

Despite concerns, Vilsack may be well-suited withstand agribusiness influence

By Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union

In a sprawling, diverse U.S. family farm community, questions are being asked about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Tom Vilsack to lead the USDA in the next administration.

Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union president

 Like most of my colleagues around the country, I have often been asked about the wisdom of appointing Secretary Vilsack a second time. The former and likely future Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had represented dairy processors and exporters for the past few years, so many small farm advocates had become concerned that he might be too close to “Big Ag.” 

State and National Farmers Union organizations have been among those who had fought against corporate concentration and mega mergers in the ranks of the nation’s seed and feed and food processing businesses. These global ag corporations have taken over markets, putting the squeeze on farmers at the bottom of the supply chain and increased prices to consumers.

With his unquestionable credentials, one might think that this pick would be a no-brainer. But we are in the midst of a time of radical change in agricultural and food industries and there are some questions among smaller producers about President-elect Biden’s pick. Is it too conventional?”

I have shared with OFU members and family farming allies that I believes Vilsack’s credentials are impeccable and that he has a “full understanding” of the marketplace — and USDA’s key role in other areas such as rural development and fighting hunger.

Having met the Secretary several times, I’m convinced that he’s a really smart guy. He knows the issues inside and out.

We all hope and expect that Secretary Vilsack will have learned that agribusiness lobbyists do not truly advocate for farmers or consumers. Instead, they advocate for the global agribusiness corporations that capture value from both farming communities and consumers.

Vilsack is an intelligent and experienced leader who clearly has the confidence of President-elect Biden. Vilsack has a previous eight years of experience in the job and he no doubt learned many lessons. Vilsack, in fact, greatly advanced certain policies that help family farmers such as organics, local farm markets, regional food networks and farm to school programs.

Secretary Vilsack has the knowledge and skills to make change happen. He deserves a chance and I’m ultimately hopeful that family farmers will be pleased with his work on our behalf. It’s up to family farmers to advocate effectively, so let’s get that done.

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