Grassley Introduces Vilsack at Nomination Hearing

Opening Remarks by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Nomination Hearing for Thomas J. Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

It’s quite an honor to introduce a fellow Iowan, Thomas J. Vilsack, former two-term Governor of Iowa, former Secretary of Agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration and well known to everyone on this committee.


I have a long relationship with Secretary Vilsack. I can’t think of a single quarrel that I’ve had with Governor Vilsack.


I know that he knows agriculture very well.


He knows the importance of maintaining the institution of the family farm. We have 88,000 of them in Iowa. And he knows the family farm is the foundation of success for American agriculture.


And he knows how to faithfully execute the laws at the Department of Agriculture. Eight years of previous actions demonstrate that.


Secretary Vilsack became Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa at a time when our nation was recovering from maybe the second worst agriculture depression we’ve had, caused by the Farm Credit Crisis of the 1980’s.


Much like the 1980’s agriculture depression, the nation is continuing to recover from the impact of the coronavirus. We’ve seen higher rates of food insecurity, continued food supply chain disruptions and family farms struggling to balance their books. Should he be confirmed, the experience from the 1980’s farm crisis will serve him well at this time of family farms being under duress.


I remember my first discussion with then to-be Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack in 2009. I brought up my work and involvement in the Pigsford operations. That was the case of civil rights being equal rights for black farmers in America. And at that time when he was going into office, there was still some carry over that was not being done in the right way for the people who had won their civil rights in the Pigsford cases. He definitely worked hard to see those people got their rights delivered to them. And that was one of my requests at that time, because I was involved in the 1990’s in getting justice for those farmers.  


Secretary Vilsack also has a very strong history of promoting agriculture products both here and abroad.


As a Governor, Secretary Vilsack expanded opportunities for green energy including biofuels. This is so very, very important for the 43,000 jobs in Iowa.


And as Secretary, he made investments from the Commodity Credit Corporation to increase the amount of fueling pumps that carry E15 and E85.


If confirmed, I’m looking to him to be a voice of reason within the Administration on the future of biofuels as he was in the eight years that he was a member of the Obama cabinet.


Finally, as Governor, Secretary and most recently, CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, he knows well U.S. agriculture is dependent upon access to our foreign markets.


As former Chairman of the Finance Committee, I’m committed to taking down barriers that limit this access and give U.S. agriculture a level playing field. And any U.S. Secretary of Agriculture plays a very important role in that.


I’m very encouraged by the success of the China Phase-One Agreement and am glad that USMCA helped achieve historic gains for agriculture. This work is reflected in the fact that corn and soybeans are the highest they’ve been since 2013.


By the way, Vilsack, in his role as CEO at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, had a news conference with me in Des Moines, Iowa on the necessity of getting USMCA passed. So, even as a private citizen, he was working very strongly to export our products.


I’m looking forward to working with Secretary Vilsack to increase foreign market access so that our high-quality crops and livestock can be sold across the world.


I often say that only two percent of Americans that farm provides for the other 98 percent of Americans without much appreciation.


If confirmed, I know Secretary Vilsack will continue to work for the family farmer and spotlight their contributions to agriculture and society. As an Iowan, that’s part of his nature. It goes way back to him being a lawyer in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.


Please know that you have an open door to my office if you or your staff need a helping hand in any of the missions that confront you, and particularly those that confront all Americans because of the coronavirus.


I urge my colleagues to favorably report your nomination out of committee and approve on the Senate floor as soon as possible.