Three weeks after clearing his Senate agriculture committee hearing, the full Senate voted 92-7 Tuesday to confirm Tom Vilsack as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Vilsack, an Iowan, served in the same role for all eight years of the Obama administration, and oversaw the USDA during passage and implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed states to experiment with hemp production.
With bipartisan support, Vilsack received unanimous votes in his favor from Democrats, although his nomination was sharply criticized among civil rights advocates for his role in the agency’s foreclosure on Black farmers who had outstanding discrimination complaints, and inequitable farm loan distribution to Black farmers.
During his virtual Senate agriculture committee hearing, Vilsack said he would form an equity commission.
Vilsack did not mention hemp during the initial hearing, but he did update senators about Biden’s plans to make agriculture carbon neutral, an idea that could lead to new opportunities for hemp farmers.
Immediately out of the gate, Vilsack will likely be focused on pandemic-related farm aid, including the $3 billion in farm relief that Congress made available through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and other initiatives.
As is customary with new administrations, President Joe Biden put a freeze on all spending during the transition, including a freeze on direct payments to farmers “until further notice.”
Over the past four years, Vilsack served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.