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Sec. Tom Vilsack
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Tom Vilsack was sworn in as the 30th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 21, 2009. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Vilsack received unanimous support for his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Secretary Vilsack has served in the public sector at nearly every level of government, beginning as mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1987, and then as state senator in 1992. In 1998, he was the first Democrat elected Governor of Iowa in more than 30 years, an office he held for two terms.

As Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack has been candid and direct about the challenges and opportunities facing USDA, and the importance of fulfilling the vast missions of the Department as a champion of rural America, a steward of the environment and a protector of our food supply.

Already, Agriculture Secretary, he has helped to implement the Recovery Act to create thousands of jobs, instituted reforms at USDA that will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and met with foreign governments to begin to establish food security across the globe. Vilsack has also made civil rights a top priority, taking definitive action to improve the Department's record and to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.

At USDA, Secretary Vilsack is working to ensure that America's forests and private working lands are conserved and restored to enhance water resources and help lead in the battle against climate change. USDA has implemented programs that create private sector jobs protecting and rehabilitating forests and wetlands.

Under Vilsack's leadership, USDA is working to promote a safe and nutritious food supply for all Americans and to end child hunger by 2015. Already, the Department has implemented an increase in SNAP, its main food assistance program, to benefit families in need with an additional $80 per month. And for the first time ever, USDA is providing healthy fruits and vegetables to women and their infant children to encourage nutritious eating, combat the obesity epidemic, and prevent health problems down the road.

USDA is working to revitalize and create wealth in rural communities by expanding economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers and investing in infrastructure like houses, fire departments and health clinics that will stimulate local economies and create jobs. We are ensuring that America is the world leader in sustainable crop production, by conducting cutting edge agricultural research by maintaining an appropriate safety net for America's small and mid-sized farmers.

Throughout his time as Governor, Vilsack articulated a vision for making Iowa the Food Capital of the World and focusing on creating economic opportunity in rural communities and small towns through value-added agriculture. As Governor, he created the Iowa Food Policy Council to advance local food systems, enhance family farm profitability, and combat hunger and malnutrition. He led trade missions to foreign countries to market agricultural products and attended the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to push for expanded agricultural trade negotiations. In addition, he worked to support independent farmers and ranchers by enacting livestock market reform and mandatory price reporting legislation in 1999.

Vilsack was a leader among his colleagues. In addition to serving on the National Governors Association Executive Committee, he also served as chair of the Governors Ethanol Coalition, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and founding member and chair of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership. As chair of the National Governors Association Committee on Natural Resources, Vilsack promoted private lands conservation and advanced the concept of tying farm payments to conservation commodities. Vilsack's national Private Lands, Public Benefits conference focused attention on the need to address conservation challenges by providing incentives to private landowners to implement conservation practices resulting in clean air, clean water, and enhanced wildlife habitat. He also created a comprehensive conservation program in Iowa to encourage and assist landowners in installing buffer strips, restoring wetlands, and rewarding good conservation practices.

During his tenure as Governor, Tom Vilsack initiated a comprehensive effort to increase economic opportunity and create good-paying jobs. He started Vision Iowa, a program to invest in cultural and recreational infrastructure throughout the state. A combination of venture capital initiatives created an entrepreneurial environment for innovation and new ideas to get started; and the Iowa Values Fund provided an economic growth strategy focused on creating and retaining jobs in targeted sectors including life sciences, financial services, and advanced manufacturing. Each of these initiatives created under Vilsack's administration contributed to the rebuilding of local economies in small towns and rural communities across the state.

In addition to state economic investment, Vilsack's leadership and vision were instrumental in transforming Iowa to an energy state. His policies led to the construction of Iowa's first power facility in two decades and made Iowa a leader in alternative energy and renewable fuels. Vilsack created a regulatory and financial environment in Iowa for wind energy to develop to the point that it now makes up 5.5% of the state's generation, the largest percentage of any state. Iowa also emerged as a leader in the production of ethanol and biodiesel during his tenure.

Throughout his public service, Tom Vilsack has pursued an agenda dedicated to the principles of opportunity, responsibility, and security. He is recognized as an innovator on children's issues and education, economic and healthcare policy, and efforts to make government more efficient and accessible. Iowa is known for its strong K-12 education system in part due to Vilsack's initiatives. He developed aggressive early childhood programs, reduced class sizes, created a first-in-the-nation salary initiative to improve teacher quality and student achievement, and enacted a more rigorous high school curriculum. His leadership also led to Iowa becoming a national leader in health insurance coverage, with more than 90% of children covered.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. He received a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, in 1972 and earned his law degree from Albany Law School in 1975. He moved to Mt. Pleasant - his wife, Christie's, hometown - where he practiced law. The Vilsacks have two adult sons, Jess and Doug, who both grew up in Mt. Pleasant, and a daughter-in-law, Kate, who's married to Jess.

Entries by Sec. Tom Vilsack

Getting Covered Is Good for Rural America

(0) Comments | Posted November 20, 2014 | 12:05 PM

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Living in a rural community shouldn't have to come with a hefty price tag for health care. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

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Bringing the Promise of Healthy School Meals to More Children This Fall

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2014 | 10:49 AM

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 enabled the U.S Department of Agriculture to make historic changes to the meals served in our nation's schools. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks sold during the school day are now more nutritious than ever, with less fat and sodium and more whole-grains,...

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Fighting Rural Poverty in Appalachia and the Delta Region

(1) Comments | Posted January 17, 2014 | 11:17 AM

Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved -- but not forgotten.

I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the wherewithal...

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U.S. Dairy Industry: Leading the Way in Sustainable Innovation

(3) Comments | Posted April 24, 2013 | 2:54 PM

U.S. dairy producers are leading the way in productivity and innovation when it comes to sustainable practices. Earlier this afternoon, I joined Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Tom Gallagher to renew an historic agreement with the dairy industry to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate the...

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USDA StrikeForce: Expanding Partnerships and Opportunity in Rural Communities

(1) Comments | Posted March 26, 2013 | 9:59 AM


Rural Americans face many unique challenges -- and every day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunity for rural communities. Unfortunately, 90 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural America -- and we can't allow these areas to be left behind. This week, USDA is further expanding a program to partner with rural communities and regions on projects they support to promote economic growth. Through this initiative, known as the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA helps communities leverage their resources to access programs, promote economic development and create more jobs.

In 2010, USDA launched this new effort as a pilot initiative in the states of Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011, StrikeForce expanded to the Southwest adding Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. USDA has already partnered with over 400 local community based organizations to promote local and regional development projects. From tackling food insecurity in Arkansas, to improving access to farm programs in Nevada, the StrikeForce initiative has helped us to better serve producers in rural communities. Our new efforts will bring StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

In an effort to leverage partnerships in poverty-stricken rural areas, we are working to ensure that every community has equal access to USDA programs. This short video provides a look at a few of the partnerships we've already created. You can also learn more about getting involved with StrikeForce by visiting...

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Celebrating Inclusion at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games

(13) Comments | Posted January 30, 2013 | 8:35 PM

This week, I have the honor to lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Special Olympics World Winter Games. Also joining me on the Presidential Delegation are Sung Kim, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea; Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights; and Julie Petty, a member of the...

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A New Guide to Local and Regional Food

(30) Comments | Posted February 29, 2012 | 9:00 AM

This is an exciting time for farmers and ranchers of all types and sizes as agriculture is a bright spot in the American economy. In 2011, agricultural exports hit a record high and producers saw their best incomes in nearly 40 years. At the same time -- with the help...

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USDA Accomplishments in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

(37) Comments | Posted January 26, 2011 | 2:43 PM

At President Obama's direction, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working hard to unleash the power of America's innovators and entrepreneurs to build a green energy economy. By producing renewable energy -- especially biofuels -- America's farmers, ranchers and rural communities have incredible potential to help ensure our nation's...

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Rebuilding and Revitalizing America's Rural Communities

(120) Comments | Posted June 3, 2010 | 9:37 AM

Over the course of the past year as United States Secretary of Agriculture I've had the opportunity to lead President Obama's rural tour, visiting dozens of communities in 20 states -- often alongside other cabinet members -- in an effort to learn about what we can do as a nation...

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Securing Our Future Through Our Children's Health

(52) Comments | Posted February 23, 2010 | 12:18 PM

Our country faces many challenges as we look to the future. In his first year in office, President Obama pulled us back from the brink of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and worked to lay a new foundation for economic growth. The president identified three key strategies...

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