As a familiar face, Tom Vilsack is expected to easily win confirmation as agriculture secretary. Vilsack began his life in a Pittsburgh orphanage and was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa in 1987. After time in the state legislature, Vilsack was elected governor in 1999. In November of 2006, the former Iowa governor announced his intention to run for the presidency, but withdrew from the race in February 2007. President Obama selected Vilsack to lead USDA in late 2008 and he stayed on the job for eight years. In February of 2017, Vilsack took the helm of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Dairy exports increased during his tenure, but Vilsack faced criticism when reports surfaced that his annual salary was close to $1 million. Most agriculture groups have praised Biden’s choice, but the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is critical. A spokesperson for Food and Water Watch said Vilsack “made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture.” Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said the Vilsack appointment is “a slap in the face to Black Americans who delivered the election to Biden.”
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