Agriculture secretary nominee Vilsack endorses biofuels push

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2020, file photo former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who the Biden administration chose to reprise that role, speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2020, file photo former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who the Biden administration chose to reprise that role, speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – Tom Vilsack, President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of agriculture, pledged Tuesday to focus on climate change initiatives and work to address racial inequities in agricultural assistance programs.

Vilsack, who testified before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, would bring much on-the-job experience to the position. In addition to serving two terms as the governor of Iowa, he spent eight years as President Barack Obama's Agriculture Secretary.

In his opening remarks, Vilsack, 70, sought to dispel concerns that he would be coming to the job with antiquated ideas.

“I realize that I am back again. But I also realize that this is a fundamentally different time,” he said, referencing a need to rebuild parts of the country's agricultural infrastructure in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reality is we lacked openness, fairness and competitiveness and resiliency, as the COVID-19 crisis has shown, in many of our agricultural markets,” he said.

In his testimony, Vilsack heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels.

“Agriculture is one of our first and best ways to get some wins in this climate area,” he said.

He proposed “building a rural economy based on biomanufacturing” and “turning agricultural waste into a variety of products.” He pledged to work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to “spur the industry” on biofuels.