Confirmation hearings for former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to become the next USDA Secretary are underway in Washington, D.C., this week. The Senate Agriculture Committee is conducting today's hearings.

Vilsack cited energy independence, global climate change, food safety, conservation and rural development among the priorities for his tenure should he be confirmed. He told the senators that he would work "to place America at the forefront of efforts to aggressively address energy independence and global climate change."

Specifically, Vilsack said, "I will also take steps to enhance the role of the farm sector and rural communities in solving the great environmental and energy-related challenges our country faces. Toward that end, I will work with [Congress] to expand opportunities for farmers, ranchers and rural communities to promote renewable energy technologies like biofuels, wind, solar and geo-thermal, and to deliver environmental benefits like clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife habitat."

Other priorities that Vilsack listed include:

  • Enhance the safety of the food supply and reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses
  • Administer a robust farm safety net and create real and meaningful opportunities for farmers and ranchers to succeed
  • Guarantee that the communities where farmers and ranchers live can grow and prosper
  • Help U.S. families that struggle to make ends meet put food on the table
  • Seek programs and practices that lead to more nutritious food produced in a sustainable way
  • Preserve and protect national resources of land, water and forests.

Pointing to the 2008 Farm Bill, Vilsack said he would seek to implement it "promptly and consistent with congressional intent."

Finally, Vilsack said he would work to upgrade USDA's use of technology, and to resolve outstanding civil rights claims in its program and employment practices. "If I am confirmed, the message will be clear: discrimination in any form will not be tolerated."

Source: Des Moines Register,