Iowa’s Vilsack is sworn in as USDA secretary — virtually

    Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Tom Vilsack as secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 24, 2021. (Screen shot from C-SPAN)

    WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday swore in former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a second time around for Vilsack in the post.

    “Congratulations Mr. Secretary and to the whole family,” Harris said. “The president is so excited. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ll do it together.”

    Vilsack appeared virtually for the ceremony, due to the pandemic, along with members of his family.

    He was sworn in using a Bible that he has had since he was 16, according to an official from the vice president’s office.

    The Bible was a gift from his mother on his adoption day and it was the same Bible he used when he was sworn in as governor of Iowa and as USDA Secretary during the Obama administration, the official said.

    Before the event began, Harris could be overheard saying it’s the first swearing-in she’s done virtually, according to a pool report.

    The Senate confirmed Vilsack Tuesday in a 92-7 vote. He previously led the $151 billion agency for eight years under President Barack Obama. His nomination drew criticism from civil rights leaders and minority farmers who said he mistreated Black farmers.

    But Democratic and Republican senators praised him and said they were confident he would work to provide equitable opportunities for minority farmers.

    During his confirmation hearing, Vilsack pledged to address inequalities faced by Black farmers as well as to meet the Biden administration’s climate change goals in farming. Vilsack added that he plans to tackle food insecurity and supply chain issues which have been exacerbated due to the pandemic.

    After leaving the Obama administration, he served as the CEO and president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

    Ariana Figueroa
    Ariana Figueroa covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.