While he’s not a farmer, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is expected to be named today by President-elect Barack Obama as the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, the fifth Iowan in history to hold the post. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s not bothered that Vilsack has never planted corn, driven a combine or raised hogs.
Grassley, a Republican, says: "I’ve had an opportunity to work with another non-farmer, the present Secretary of Agriculture, who was governor of North Dakota. I’ve found him to be very aggressive in the administering of the department, very aggressive in the defense of agriculture and very knowledgeable about the issues within agriculture."
Grassley says if Ed Schafer can be all of those things as a non-farmer heading the U.S.D.A., Tom Vilsack will certainly succeed as well. Grassley says Vilsack may do even better in the job as Iowa is the nation’s leading ag state, "where the family farm institution is strong."
He says Vilsack knows about the institution of the farm, the need for rural development and he knows about the importance of agriculture as the foundation for many other industries in the Midwest.
With Vilsack going to a presidential cabinet post, Grassley was asked if that will make Democrat Vilsack a less likely opponent for Grassley, who’s expected to seek re-election to the Senate in 2010.
"As far as I know, I’ve heard from people who are friends of Vilsack and I also have some relationship with, that he wasn’t considering a run against me anyway, so that has nothing to do with his being Secretary of Agriculture," Grassley says. Grassley was first elected to the Senate in 1980. The 75-year-old from New Hartford is in his fifth term.