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Feb. 23, 2021, 5:22 p.m. EST

Senate confirms Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary with a 92-7 vote

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By Associated Press

The Senate voted 92-7 Tuesday to confirm Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, his second run at the cabinet post.

The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same department under former President Barack Obama.

In his testimony, Vilsack, 70, heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying agriculture “is one of our first and best ways to get some wins” on climate change.

He proposed “building a rural economy based on biomanufacturing” and “turning agricultural waste into a variety of products.” He pledged to work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to “spur the industry” on biofuels.

With systemic racial inequity now a nationwide concern, Vilsack also envisioned creating an “equity taskforce” inside the department. Its job, he said, would be to identify what he called “intentional or unintentional barriers” that prevent or discourage farmers of color from properly accessing federal assistance programs.

Vilsack also heavily backed the SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps — as a key instrument in helping the country’s most vulnerable families survive and recover from the pandemic era. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists.

Vilsack faced minimal opposition throughout the confirmation process.

From the archives (October 2019): Trump agriculture secretary says during Wisconsin visit that family-run dairy farms may not survive

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