Our planet and rural communities cannot afford four more years of Vilsack’s aggressive corporatism.
On Tuesday, after some public tokenizing and horse trading, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team crowned dairy industry lobbyist and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to lead the Department of Agriculture. Vilsack won out over House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s pick, Rep. Marcia Fudge, who was also backed by progressives. Whereas Fudge represented an opportunityto unite the USDA’s rural and urban constituents and address the agency’s long history of racial discrimination, Vilsack is a rerun of pro-corporate policies that continue to drive rural communities away from the Democratic Party.
The secretary of agriculture is an underrated and important Cabinet member whose work intersects with climate change, workers’ safety, racial justice, antitrust, rural development, and of course, feeding the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic put America’s fragile and destructive food system on display. Massive plant closures threatened the food supply, front-line food workers fell sick and died in large (and growing) numbers, and nearly 1 in 4 households experienced food insecurity. The next agriculture secretary has an unprecedented moment to enact much needed systemic changes in how we grow and distribute food.