The U.S. Senate has confirmed Tom Vilsack as USDA secretary, which will have him resume the the same cabinet position he served for the eight years of the Barack Obama administration. The vote was 92-7.
The 70-year-old Vilsack had been reported to be President Joe Biden’s choice for the post back in December. The former governor of Iowa has been serving as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
"The world and our nation are different today than when I served as agriculture secretary in a previous administration," Vilsack said. "Today, the pandemic, racial justice and equity and climate change must be our priorities."
As USDA secretary from 2009 to 2017, Vilsack oversaw the initial implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s provisions that overhauled national school meal programs. The USDA under Vilsack also expanded K-12 access to fresh produce, overhauled school wellness policies, piloted a school garden program, released an updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans and unveiled a new food pyramid icon.
Biden called him, "The best secretary of agriculture I believe this country has ever had."
The National School Lunch and Breakfast programs are administrated by the USDA. These programs have not been reauthorized since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act in 2010, even though it was supposed to be reauthorized in both 2015 and 2020. With the pandemic’s move to providing free meals, many child nutrition advocates are using the momentum gained to push for universal free meals for all in K-12 schools.