Love him or hate him, you won’t have to think about Tom Vilsack anymore. A week before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration — which would have been the official end to Vilsack’s eight years as Secretary of Agriculture — Vilsack called it quits.
What’s really jarring about this is that Trump hasn’t nominated a successor for Vilsack yet — a noticeable void that has had the ag community talking for the past couple of months. For now, Michael Scuse, the acting deputy secretary, will serve as acting secretary. While that move is a bureaucratic Band-Aid, what’s needed is a sign that there is some permanence in the near future for this Cabinet post and the $150 billion budget it commands.
According to Politico, Vilsack said this to his employees upon his departure: “Your work enables all the work just outlined to happen because you are in the background making sure our operations run smoothly, regardless of where in the world they might be. Each of you and those who have come before you are part of an extraordinary group of people who proudly and honorably serve the greatest nation on earth.”
In an email to employees, Vilsack didn’t say why he was leaving his post early, though he noted that he wants to remain involved in the ag sector. Vilsack is a former Iowa governor who has lifelong ties to farming.
The Chicago Tribune has said that Trump and his team have interviewed several Agriculture Secretary candidates, including former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado. They have also talked to potential candidates from Texas and Indiana, home state of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, was at Trump Tower on Thursday.
In November, AGDAILY columnist Amanda Zaluckyj (The Farmer’s Daughter USA) talked about who was on the early list for the post and who she would like to see.
To read what Vilsack thought about the future of agriculture in the U.S., click here.