BILLINGS — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to return as head of USDA, a position he held for eight years for President Barack Obama.
During his time at USDA, Vilsack implemented two farm bills, which included important safety net programs like crop insurance for Montana farmers.
“He was good for us in those areas,” said Montana Grain Growers Association Executive Vice President Lola Raska. “Another ex Max Baucus staffer that he scooped up was Brandon Willis as the head administrator of the RMA, and Brandon was top notch on crop insurance programs and very supportive, a good listener, heard about our issues and really administered the Risk Management Agency very well.”
For Montana ranchers, trade has become very important in helping to boost profitability. And as agriculture secretary under President Obama, Vilsack worked extensively on trade issues.
“Some of the focuses that we've looked at that had success were trade agreements,” said Montana Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice President Jay Bodner. “He really did focus a lot on trying to build out some of those. And really, from a Montana perspective, we see that has some advantages because we have a great product to sell. If we can sell that to the world, then those are things we want to build on for Montana producers.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Vilsack will return as Secretary of Agriculture at a time when farmers, ranchers and our rural communities are facing additional challenges brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Since leaving USDA, Vilsack has been president and CEO of the Dairy Export Council, although he also served as an early adviser to the Biden campaign on rural and agricultural issues.