Contact: Johanna Kichton, 202.660.0605, [email protected]
WASHINGTON, D.C.—People’s Action Director George Goehl today released the following statement in response to media reports that President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Tom Vilsack as Secretary to the Department of Agriculture (USDA):
“Representative Fudge would have been an outstanding Secretary of Agriculture. In his previous stint as Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack missed the mark in big moments to stand for racial justice. The President-elect had the opportunity to show that he does not reward such failures. Instead, the incoming administration passed on a highly qualified Black female legislator to choose more of the same.
“Vilsack’s USDA had a troubling track record on racial justice. During his previous tenure, the department foreclosed on Black farmers after they complained about discrimination and whitewashed USDA’s record on civil rights. He kneecapped Shirley Sherrod when white supremacists in the alt-right media published a hit piece on her, leading to her resignation.
“Vilsack also failed to live up to his promises to take on corporate agriculture. He appointed Monsanto-connected executives before jumping ship for a lucrative lobbying post.
“Vilsack then led Biden’s unimpressive rural campaign in 2020. As far as I can tell, our organization made more calls to convince rural voters to vote for Biden than the Biden campaign did for itself. If Democrats keep letting people fail upwards like this, they will never stop the bleeding. By 2040, the more rural half of this country could control 84 Senate seats. How does permanent majority leader status for the head of the Senate Republicans sound to you?
“We need a USDA Secretary on the side of everyday people who rely on the department in rural, urban, and suburban communities. Instead, we’re getting a revolving-door appointment. If this is not the fox guarding the henhouse, it’s pretty damn close.
“Rep. Marcia Fudge would have been a historic first at USDA—a secretary on the side of everyday people, not corporate agriculture lobbyists. Appointing Vilsack at her expense is a terrible decision.”
People’s Action is a national network of 40 state and local grassroots, power-building organizations united in fighting for justice. We operate the largest progressive rural organizing project in the country. People’s Action and its member organizations coordinated one of the biggest distributed organizing programs in rural areas this election season.