US Tom Vilsack USDA Secretary

Tom Vilsack has been confirmed as the new USDA Agriculture Secretary, reprising the role he held in the Obama administration, this time under new US president, Joe Biden.

Vilsack was confirmed by a vote of 92 to 7 by the US Senate on 23 February.

United Fresh Produce Association president and chief executive Tom Stenzel said Vilsack is an ally to the fresh produce industry.

“On issues ranging from food and nutrition security to labour challenges in agriculture, Secretary Vilsack has shown commitment to finding positive solutions,” said Stenzel.

“We are particularly looking forward to working with Secretary Vilsack on a new Food Box programme which has proved to be a critical step in providing healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need, while supporting small farms and distributors around the country.”

Leaders of several produce associations have congratulated Vilsack, according to The Packer.

Dave Puglia, Western Growers president and chief executiove, said in a statement that Vilsack’s relationship with the industry and Western Growers yielded positive policy actions during his previous tenure as Agriculture Secretary.

“Looking ahead, we must band together to address short term, pandemic-related needs such as funding for worker safety costs, as well as larger and longer-term threats to the viability of farming in the West,” Puglia said.

“Over the next four years, we know Secretary Vilsack will work with us as he has in the past to ensure economic prosperity for America’s family farmers.”

Produce Marketing Association chief executive Cathy Burns highlighted the work Vilsack had previously done with PMA and its members on issues including fresh fruits and vegetables in school feeding programmes, increased SNAP benefits, and supporting various USDA committees with industry insight.

“In light of our announcement in joining the steering committee of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), we also look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack on devising meaningful incentives, science-based metrics and durable policies for climate-smart agriculture that recognize the unique aspect of the specialty crop industry,' Burns said.