Tom Vilsack (USDA photo)

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has confirmed he is the next leader of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

“It’s very easy to sell and to advocate on behalf of the dairy producers and the processors and companies of this country because we have a great product. We have a safe product. We have a nutritious product,” Vilsack said during an interview with Brownfield’s Larry Lee. “We’ve got a high quality product that we can sell around the world.”

Vilsack resigned as U.S. Ag Secretary on Friday after nearly eight years in the post. He will begin this new job February 1.

“Probably more than any other aspect of agriculture, these dairy producers are working 365 days a year, 24/7,” Vilsack said. “I know they’re hard working. They care deeply about the industry and their families and their farms, so I’m excited about this opportunity.”

Fifteen percent of U.S. dairy products are currently exported.

“That has helped to stabilize prices,” Vilsack said. “It’s helped to create a better opportunity long term and as we increase the number, increase the market share — it increases the opportunity to take the efficiencies and productivity of American producers and make sure it doesn’t necessarily become a drag on prices.”

The nonprofit group Vilsack will lead seeks to drive demand for U.S. dairy products. Agri-Pulse had reported earlier this month that Vilsack would take the job. He replaces Tom Suber, who recently retired after 22 years as president of USDEC.

“Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers,” Vilsack said in a statement from the group.

(Additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis and Brownfield’s  Larry Lee)