Biden Plans To Bring Vilsack Back To USDA, Despite Criticism From Reformers


President elect biden is ready to announce to more cabinet nominations. This morning one name is familiar. Biden wants tom. Vilsek who served as secretary of agriculture in the obama administration to return to that same job and he's nominating congresswoman marcia fudge to be secretary of housing and urban development. This is interesting. A lot of people had been urging biden depict fudge for the agriculture job instead. Joining me now is. Npr's dan charles who covers food and agriculture. For i dan. Good morning david well. Let's talk about representative. Marcia fudge what why were so many people pushing for her to get the job. So there's an interesting thing about the department of agriculture. It was set up to help farmers back when farmers were half of the country. And it's still does a lot of that but the country has changed and the biggest part of the usda's budget now is nutrition aid. You know the supplemental nutrition assistance program snyder's school lunches and marcia fudge has been one of the fiercest defenders of those nutrition programs on capitol hill. She represents a district that includes much of cleveland also akron ohio. She's been on the house. Agriculture committee she and her supporters felt. It was high time for the top. Usda job to go to somebody who saw those nutrition programs as the department's big priority and not just sort of a change in emphasis but this would have been a historic break with the past In that job she's a black woman is she would have been the first black woman in that job. Only the second woman Period also. There's another thing you know. Most agriculture secretaries have been connected somehow to farming or farming areas. She's from city. Well you know in the end it did not happen. David will now be nominated. Apparently to be secretary of housing and urban development instead and for agriculture biden went for somebody much more traditional. Tom vilsek may be part. Two former governor of iowa who becoming back into the same job at that he served on president obama right. He was secretary of agriculture. For all eight years of the obama administration but apparently that was not enough for him. He's okay middle of the road described as even-handed certainly knows the issues but some of those anti-hunger groups and environmental advocates who supported fudge. Really are not happy about deville sack choice. It's partly because they want that change at. Usda more focus on nutrition also the environment. But there's another thing. Tom vilsek after he left. The obama administration took a job as ceo of the us dairy export council which is an industry group and his critic. Say this is kind of a sign of their problem with them. They say he's too cozy with the big companies that represent the status quo in agriculture. Why you cover so much of this I in very deep ways. I mean talk. About what policies may or may not change under a biden administration with vilsek at the homeless department vilsek represents continuity in a way but there are things that people do expect change There's been an extraordinary development in the last couple of years. During the trump administration the secretary that the department of agriculture passed out record breaking amounts of financial aid to farmers this year alone. Forty six billion dollars in direct government payments. I think that is not going to continue. There's another thing the. Usda may turn into a bit of an environmental agency play a big role. Perhaps in climate change it has some money. For this rural development programs could help pay for clean energy in rural areas their plans to pay farmers for practices on the farm that reduce greenhouse emissions could also promote reforestation. The us forest service sexy part of the us department of agriculture and those forests are in the way as the climate heats up npr's. Dan charles covers food and agriculture. Dan thanks so much thank

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