Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just in from Washington

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack
Vilsack Nominated to Head USDA

Washington--President-elect Barack Obama wants former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to head the United States Department of Agriculture according to Washington insiders.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Vilsack’s confirmation should go smoothly in January. Vilsack will be the fifth secretary of agriculture from Iowa, and the first since 1940 when Henry Wallace served as USDA chief in the Roosevelt administration. This will also be the first time that both the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman and USDA secretary are Iowans.

“During his tenure as Iowa’s governor, one of the nation’s top agriculture-producing states, Gov. Vilsack was an ardent supporter of furthering the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind, as well as an advocate for biotechnology. He has been a strong proponent of international trade and expanding our export markets. His understanding and experience with many of the pressing issues facing agriculture today will serve him well in his new position," said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

Vilsack could face tough challenges at Ag because the Obama administration wants to overhaul subsidy programs, the President-elect singled out wasteful crop subsidy payments as a way of saving taxpayer dollars.

Vilsack endorsed Obama and campaigned for him but also attracted attention this past summer with a series of op-ed articles in newspapers that showed the need for a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

"By locking up carbon through clean technologies and generating less carbon through renewable energy sources, we create home-grown carbon credits direct from the family farm," Vilsack wrote in an Oct. 16 column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Those carbon credits are then sold on the open market "just as if they were soybeans or lean hogs," generating "a new revenue stream and creating a new 'cash crop' that just happens to help save the planet at the same time," he added.

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