Joe Biden’s Agriculture Secretary nominee pledges to address discrimination across the Department of Agriculture. In the Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing, Tom Vilsack told lawmakers he will also seek to remove barriers to access for anyone who qualifies for nutrition assistance.
In his opening statement, Vilsack also vowed to ensure USDA is doing its part to end the COVID-19 pandemic, lead the federal government in building and maintaining new markets, stop the farm debt cycle and create transparency in pricing throughout the supply chain. Vilsack, who was Agriculture Secretary during the Obama administration, also seeks to restore USDA employee morale “to the high level it was” during his previous tenure at USDA.
Incoming Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, stated, “My last turn as Chair coincided with your first tenure at USDA, and I’m so happy to have the chance to work with you again.” The Committee advanced the nomination to the full Senate following the hearing.
Speculation is brewing over how the new Biden administration may use the Commodity Credit Corporation. The CCC, as it’s known, was used by the Trump-era Department of Agriculture to provide trade relief to farmers, including Market Facilitation Program payments.
The CCC has a $30 billion fund, with several ideas on how to use the funding, setting up a “tug of war over its limited resources,” according to Politico. Incoming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has indicated that he has the authority to implement a carbon bank for farmers through the CCC.
President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan also identified the CCC as a means to provide economic relief for restaurants suffering during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters last week, farmers can be leaders in the climate crisis. She says her focus will be on “voluntary, producer-led opportunities” to allow farmers to cut down emissions and create new income sources.