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complaints about racial discrimination”. And Vilsack himself? He “left his job at the USDA a week early to become a lobbyist as chief executive of the US Dairy Export Council,” said Goehl. “He was paid a million-dollar salary to push the same failed policies of his USDA tenure, carrying out the wishes of dairy monopolies.” Michael Stovall, founder of an organisation called Independent Black Farmers, recently stated in a Politico story, “Vilsack is not good for the agriculture industry, period.”


Hearing from Biden and Vilsack In a December news conference, Biden said about Vilsack that he was “the best secretary of agriculture that I believe our na- tion has ever had”. He added, “[Vilsack] has helped develop my Plan for Rural America in the campaign and now he will carry it out. That includes making American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and create new sources of income for farmers in the process, by paying farmers to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops that use the soil to capture carbon”. Vilsack himself has stated that the USDA’s top priority will be “to contribute all that we can as a department to aid in the pandemic response”. He also said, “When we emerge from this crisis, we are going to have an incredible opportunity be- fore us to position American agriculture to lead our nation and the world in combating climate change and reaping the new, good-paying jobs that will come from that leadership.” In December, then-House Agriculture chair Collin Peterson


proposed that doubling the size of idle land in the US govern- ment’s Conservation Reserve programme to at least 50 mil- lion acres (20.2 million ha) would be an effective way to achieve climate change goals – and that the programme is al- ready popular with farmers. He added that “land enrolled in the programme has helped to keep billions of tonnes of soil from eroding and sequestered millions of tonnes of carbon”.


Trade: An issue at all for agriculture? It is no doubt causing dismay among US farmers that neither Vilsack nor Biden has mentioned trade as an issue that needs to be addressed to strengthen the US agriculture sector. Nor has Vilsack mentioned anything about solutions to address the labour issues that plague farmers and food processors across America. In Goehl’s view, Biden should not have given Vilsack another chance to lead the USDA due to the many missteps and lack of action he demonstrated in his first time at the helm. Biden should have charted “a bold, new course for rural communi- ties and farmers in America” but instead, in choosing Vilsack, Biden has signalled “more of the same”. Whether Vilsack listens to the concerns that have been raised about his second tenure remains to be seen as the Trump era ends for US farmers, US citizens and the rest of the world. At a time when US farmers are dealing with tight markets, Covid-19 restrictions, falling farm values, labour issues, bankruptcies and more, they can only hope he will.


▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 29, No. 1, 2021


During his Oba- ma years, US agri culture sec- retary Tom Vil- sack (L) spoke to the EU Commis- sion. The meet- ing was mainly focused on the EU/US trade agreement ne- gotiations at the time.


35


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