Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor that Barack Obama has tapped to be the next USDA Secretary, received $42,782 in Conservation Reserve Payments over the past seven years. Vilsack also is a partner in a lobbying law firm that has advised clients on agribusiness development and renewable energy — a job that appears to be in conflict with Obama’s pledge to bar appointees from working on issues that relate to their employment during the two years.
Vilsack has said he “will do whatever is appropriate in the face of the conflict” between his furture job as USDA secretary and his work at the law firm, Dorsey & Whitney. He also said that “if the law requires that I forgo the (CRP) income, then that is what I will do.”
A spokesman for Obama’s transition team said Vilsack “was not a lobbyist on agriculture issues and, of course, he will represent the interests of the president-elect and the American people, not his former employer.”
Some media reports have labeled Vilsack’s CRP income as “subsidy payments,” making no distinction between crop subsidies and conservation programs. Both Obama and Vilsack have called for reforms to the subsidy system to “limit payments to wealthy land owners.”
Vilsack’s CRP income was earned on parts of a 592-acre Iowa property he owns with his wife. According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, Vilsack put his farm’s worth between $500,001 and $1 million.
In the seven-year period between 2000 and 2006, Vilsack received a total of $42,782 from the CRP. The smallest payment was $2,132 in 2000, and the largest was $7,593 in 2003.