Biden’s Pick To Head USDA Recognizes New Food and Farm Challenges

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today President Biden’s nominee for secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who held the same post in the Obama administration, testified in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Here is a statement from Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs:

In 2009, when he was first nominated to head the Agriculture Department, Secretary Vilsack pledged to put “America at the forefront of efforts to aggressively address . . . global climate change” and to end racial discrimination at the USDA. During his first tenure, too little progress was made on these goals, so it’s good to hear that he recognizes that much more needs to be done to address the needs of Black farmers and the climate crisis. It’s also good to hear that he plans to make hunger and protecting food and farm workers his top priorities. But we must work to hold him accountable to his pledge, first made in 2009, to make sure the “people’s department” works for all of us.

Sadly, in today’s hearing, too many members of the Agriculture Committee seemed more concerned with corn ethanol production that the real challenges facing farmers, workers and consumers. We need a secretary who will meet the needs of all Americans, not just those of the most successful farm businesses and the companies that produce farm chemicals or biofuels. To do so, the next secretary should increase anti-hunger assistance, provide food and farm workers with personal protective equipment and other safeguards, wipe out Black farm debt, and provide new incentives for farmers to protect our environment – not waste precious taxpayer dollars on blender pumps.

It's good news that these challenges – ending hunger, protecting our environment, confronting racism in agriculture, protecting workers – will be Secretary Vilsack’s priorities. And by building a diverse staff with deep expertise, he is helping to ensure that the “people’s department” works for all of us. But it will be critical to hold him accountable to his pledge to make America’s priorities USDA’s priorities.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.