Statement on Nomination of Tom Vilsack to be Agriculture Secretary

D.C., January 13, 2008—President-elect
Obama’s choice for Agriculture Secretary has a troubling record on agriculture
and consumer issues, according to an expert from the Competitive Enterprise
Institute.  The Senate Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition and Forestry will hold a confirmation hearing on Wednesday, January
14, on former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s fitness to be Secretary of

Statement by CEI
Senior Fellow Gregory Conko on
Tom Vilsack: 

Governor Vilsack has supported modest
reforms for America’s
bloated farm subsidy programs, including limitations on farm program payments and
reducing subsidies to the largest farms. 
He has also shown some willingness to stand up against the environmental
movement’s radical wing in support of American agriculture—in particular,
through his modest support for food biotechnology.  Unfortunately, Governor Vilsack’s record
reveals a politician more interested in promoting farmers than the American

As Governor of Iowa, Mr. Vilsack
was a leading promoter of the ethanol mandate that forces Americans to
subsidize the production of inefficient fuels made from Iowa corn. 
He also supported changes in livestock market regulations that would
limit the efficiencies gained from vertical integration of farmers, ranchers,
and meatpackers.

Even his support for food
biotechnology has not been consistent, as Governor Vilsack has promoted organic
agriculture by attempting to hamstring conventional farmers who choose biotech
crops.  He has, for example, expressed
support for restrictions on where biotech crops could be grown and how they should
be shipped and labeled.  He has also
expressed support for a “precautionary” approval system for new biotech crop
varieties in order to prevent erosion of markets for organic and other
non-biotech foods.  This is despite the
widely held view of the scientific community that biotech crops and foods are
arguably safer for consumers and the environment than organic foods, and that
biotech crop varieties are already subject to unwarranted restrictions in the US and

In short, Governor Vilsack has a
reputation as the American farmer’s best friend.  However, a closer look at the policies he
supports suggests that may not be true. 
And further more, he may be the American consumer’s worst enemy.