Thomas J. Vilsack was confirmed as the 32nd United States Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23, 2021 by the U.S. Senate. He was nominated by President Joe Biden to return to a role where he served for eight years under President Barack Obama.
Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is building back better by restoring the American economy, strengthening rural and historically underserved communities, responding to threats of climate change, creating good-paying jobs for American workers and the next generation of agricultural leaders, and investing in our kids and our families.
Secretary Vilsack is spearheading a transformation of the food system by creating more, better, and fairer markets and ensuring that the food system of today and the future is more resilient and more competitive globally. It will also offer consumers affordable, nutritious food grown closer to home.
From excessive drought to more extreme fires, our producers, farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines confronting the challenges associated with climate change. USDA is engaging the agriculture and forestry sectors in voluntary, incentive-based climate solutions to improve the resiliency of producers and to build wealth that stays in rural communities. Additionally, USDA is advancing investments in science and research to offer producers a toolbox to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Secretary Vilsack continues to take bold, historic action to reduce barriers to access for historically underserved communities. By working to ensure all aspects of civil rights and equity are integrated, USDA is rooting out generations of systemic racism and building systems and programs inclusive of all USDA employees and customers.
Secretary Vilsack is also focused on ensuring Americans have consistent access to safe, healthy, and affordable food. USDA is investing in bold solutions that enhance food safety, improve the various far-reaching and powerful nutrition programs in the Department, and reduce food and nutrition insecurity in America.
Additional Background on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Vilsack was the longest-serving member of President Obama’s original Cabinet. Prior to his appointment, he served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, served in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. He received his bachelor's degree from Hamilton College and his law degree from Albany Law School in New York.
Prior to returning to USDA, he served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) from 2017 until February 2021. There, he provided strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC's global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. In addition to his post at USDEC, he also served as a Strategic Advisor to Colorado State University’s food and water initiatives.
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. After graduating from law school, Vilsack moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, his wife Christie’s hometown, where he practiced law. The Vilsacks have two adult sons and two daughters-in-law—Doug, married to Janet; and Jess, married to Kate. They have five grandchildren.
Vilsack has been honored for his public service and work to advance American agriculture by several organizations, including the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.