President-elect Obama has announced former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as his choice for Secretary of Agriculture and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary. Both appointments are good news for the agriculture industry.
Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa from from 1998 until 2006 and was a short-lived opponent of Obama’s in the presidential race. As governor, Vilsack was a strong supporter of ethanol and other biofuels as a way to help rural economies. In his brief run for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, Vilsack made the focus of his campaign a plan to end U.S dependence on foreign oil by promoting alternative energy sources.
By the way, the last Secretary of Agriculture from Iowa was Henry Wallace who served under Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1941. Wallace was a plant geneticist who founded what is now Pioneer Hi-Bred.
As for Salazar, the interior secretary will play a key role in setting the new administration’s environmental, energy and land-use policies.
Salazar has also has been a strong supporter of biofuels, this year co-sponsoring the Open Fuel Standard Act, legislation would require that half of all new automobiles starting in 2012 be flex-fuel vehicles warranted to operate on gasoline, ethanol, and methanol, or be warranted to operate on biodiesel. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will have to appoint a replacement to complete Salazar’s term in the Senate through 2010. Among the contenders is Salazar’s brother, John, a potato farmer who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.