News Release

Vilsack at Agriculture: “Mr. Mon­san­to”?

Numerous media outlets are reporting that Tom Vilsack will be Joe Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary.

MITCH JONES, via Seth Gladstone – sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater

Jones is policy director of Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” Jones said: “Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn. America needs an agriculture secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven he will not be the agriculture leader we need.”

Background: Earlier this year, Branko Marcetic wrote in In These Times that while “Vil­sack resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to’…

“Days after step­ping down as agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary [in the Obama administration], Vil­sack spun through the revolv­ing door to the U.S. Dairy Export Coun­cil, where he now earns near­ly $1 mil­lion as the top exec­u­tive at its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion, Dairy Man­age­ment Inc. The pow­er­ful Coun­cil boasts a who’s who of big agri­cul­ture and even phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals as mem­bers, and last year, Vil­sack urged Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates not to crit­i­cize or tar­get agri­cul­tur­al monop­o­lies, cit­ing the poten­tial of job loss­es. Vil­sack was also a major boost­er of the con­tro­ver­sial Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship trade deal.”

Also, see recent Politico report for summary of objections to Vilsack from civil rights groups.