September 19, 2023

Tom Vilsack has what it takes to move the Agriculture Department forward

Vilsack has a long track record of accomplishments, so expectations of the USDA in the new administration must be high.

No department or agency has been spared the withering incompetence and disaffection of Donald Trump’s presidency. Building back better across the country requires new ideas, but effectively implementing new concepts requires seasoned leadership. Under the new Biden administration, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is set to become the second-longest-serving agriculture secretary in American history. (Second only to another Iowan, James Wilson.)

Like Joe Biden, Vilsack’s most important advantage in moving this country forward will be his experience, which we must not take for granted. As Vilsack demonstrated during his first term as secretary, there are many ways to move the ministry and the nation forward. It’s not just about supporting small farmers, it’s also about fighting climate change, protecting food aid for all Americans, and making sure the USDA is working to support all farmers, no matter what. either their race or their origin. We now need to leverage veteran administrators to make as much progress as possible and mentor new department leaders.

ANOTHER VIEW: Vilsack shows no signs of solving the many ills of farming

The management of any federal department is based on competing priorities. It’s not unlike walking around with a small tray of ping pong balls. The ping pong balls represent your top priorities, and yes, there are multiple top priorities in critical departments. As you move, every time the board moves, there’s a chance one will come loose. Standing still with a tray of ping pong balls is easier, but you won’t get anywhere. There are enough competing priorities in a ministry like Agriculture to challenge any manager: food aid, agricultural subsidies, the Forest Service. Vilsack is an experienced hand; he has faced these challenges before. If we want to move our nation forward, and we must, we need to rely on leaders who can get up to speed the fastest and who know the problems and the best ways to solve them.


Iowa’s Tom Vilsack named agriculture secretary – again

Tom Vilsack is set for another term as US Secretary of Agriculture, according to news agencies in Washington, DC, citing people familiar with the decision.

Registry Staff, Des Moines Registry

Making our government work is hiring the right people, then leaving them and expecting them to do their jobs successfully. Vilsack did well in her previous time as secretary; he struck trade deals, led forest and water conservation programs, chaired the first White House Rural Council, and led and then implemented the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. We should expect these successes to continue, and I am sure he will press for new solutions. Now is the time to mentor and grow the next generation of leaders in food relief and agriculture. These new leaders should be at the forefront of change, and to succeed they need Vilsack’s experience and mentorship.

Vilsack has a long track record of accomplishments, so expectations of the USDA in the new administration must be high. While other Cabinet Secretaries can benefit from the doubt, President Biden will expect the department to be run properly and successfully from the start. Since he doesn’t face a steep learning curve, Secretary Vilsack must use his vast experience to start creating substantial change from day one. I am convinced that he will.

Robert Felderman, a retired US Army Brigadier General, lives in Dubuque.