“If I had to describe [Secretary Tom Vilsack] in one word: driven.”
That’s how Brandon Willis, former Administrator of the Risk Management Agency and a previous Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack, described the Secretary of Agriculture nominee to Groundwork listeners on our most recent episode.
Willis joined the podcast to share some insights about his time working with Secretary Vilsack, as well as forecast where Secretary Vilsack might lead the agency.
With the incredible challenges that agricultural producers have faced this year – hurricanes, wildfires, drought and a rural recession – they are confident that the experience Secretary Vilsack brings to the position will be an asset.
“He’s going to be an effective advocate for agriculture… from day one,” Willis said.
Secretary Vilsack, of course, is no stranger to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), having previously served for eight years under President Barack Obama. In the years since then, he’s served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and importantly, as a leader for expanding fair trade opportunities for American agriculture overseas.
This experience and Secretary Vilsack’s pragmatism will serve America’s farmers and ranchers well, Willis notes.
“[Secretary Vilsack] wants to make agriculture better for everybody… whether you’re 1,000 acres conventional, whether you’re organic, however you want to market… he wanted to find solutions that worked for everybody without picking sides by trying to make it better as a whole.”
Of course, one of the biggest issues in the coming years will be agriculture’s role in fostering a healthy climate. America’s farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists, but how will the USDA under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership build upon this spirit of innovation to better protect our environment?
“He believes that agriculture’s part of the solution,” Willis said.
Willis believes that Secretary Vilsack will ensure that farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table when discussing policies to promote sustainability. “[Secretary Vilsack] believes that if they’re going to be part of the solution, they should benefit from that,” Willis said.
American agriculture stands ready to work with Secretary Vilsack, and all of the other new faces we expect to see in our nation’s capital next year, to protect farm policy and support our farm producers.
Don’t miss our entire conversation with Brandon Willis. Listen to the full episode of Groundwork here.