U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today received testimony from former Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack for consideration to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). President-elect Barack Obama nominated Vilsack for the position last month.
"The position of Secretary is critically important not only to America's agricultural producers, but to every U.S. citizen that consumes the products our farmers produce," said Sen. Chambliss. "From overseeing the major commodity and conservation programs to administering the food and nutrition programs, the Secretary of Agriculture touches almost every sector of our society. Our most basic strength as a nation resides in our ability to produce a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply."
Sen. Chambliss noted during his opening remarks that he is hopeful USDA will represent the entire U.S. agriculture sector and not just once section of the country. He urged Gov. Vilsack, once confirmed, to closely monitor the production sector and ensure any legislative priorities treat all areas of the country fairly so that they may enjoy broad congressional support. Sen. Chambliss also stressed the importance of proper implementation of the 2008 farm bill.
"Although the previous Administration began implementation of the 2008 farm bill, now it will be your responsibility to complete the job," said Sen. Chambliss. "It is our hope to continue the important business of working with the Department to implement the law. Sometimes the Department needs assistance in that regard in order to fully understand Congressional intent to preserve the delicate balances of the bill. The fact the President-elect nominated you speaks to your high level of qualification to implement such an important piece of legislation."
Sen. Chambliss said in addition to implementing the farm bill, the Secretary must represent the interests of American agriculture in the negotiation of free-trade agreements; work to further open foreign markets to our agricultural products; support international economic development through the provision of food aid; lead land conservation efforts and expand job opportunities for our citizens in rural America.
After the Senate Agriculture Committee approves Vilsack for the post, the nomination will then go before the full Senate. Chambliss said he is hopeful the Senate will move to confirm him as quickly as possible.