Tom Vilsack | KCUR

Tom Vilsack

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is questioning the qualifications of President Trump’s pick to lead the research division at the USDA, a post generally held in the past by a trained scientist.

In July, Trump nominated former conservative talk radio host and economics professor Sam Clovis to be the agency’s undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics.

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the long delays in seating his replacement leaves rural America without a voice in the Trump administration.

Vilsack, a Democrat who served as USDA chief during both terms of the Obama Administration, cites President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal as an example of what happens without a Cabinet position dedicated to rural issues.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The path to normalized relations between the United States and Cuba made a stop in farm country Friday.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Cuban counterpart, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, toured Aaron Lehman’s corn and soybean farm in central Iowa. They talked about water, soil, and energy and compared strategies for managing hog manure, which has been a problem in Iowa.

Vilsack said he hopes Cuba can increasingly be an export market for farm products like soybeans, rice and, eventually, poultry.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, state and local officials as well as the Secretaries of both Agriculture and Homeland Security smiled, shook hands, even hugged as they came together for the latest in a series of ceremonial groundbreakings for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Manhattan, Kansas facility has been in the works for 16 years, said Sen. Pat Roberts, the grandfather of the project, who first pushed for greater food and agriculture safety with Kansas State University officials in 1999.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As the outbreak of avian flu continues to spread across the Midwest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the spread of the virus could be "laterally spread" by humans.

The outbreak, which has now spread to 15 states, is thought to be caused by wild birds coming into contact with poultry flocks. Vilsack said it was definitely wildlife that brought the virus to the Midwest via the Mississippi Flyway. But now it appears the ongoing spread of it could be caused by humans, Vilsack told Iowa Public Radio.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says big shipping hubs like the BNSF Railway Logistics Park he visited in Edgerton, Kan., Tuesday have helped drive an increase in agricultural exports over the past six years.

But a labor slowdown at West Coast ports could jeopardize that growth, Vilsack says.

Comprehensive immigration reform is critical to sustaining the Midwest's role as a global leader in agriculture. That's the message from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack told St. Louis Public Radio Monday that moving forward with the immigration reform plan recently passed by the U.S. Senate is key to retaining international talent that comes to this country to study in the plant sciences.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in farm country Monday continuing to push Congress to send a farm bill to President Obama’s desk.

Vilsack doesn’t consider extending the farm bill beyond the September 30 expiration a sound option.