Newly-Confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Outlines His Priorities

Feb 26, 2021

After a majority Senate vote, Tom Vilsack is now reprising the role of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He said during a news conference that one of his biggest priorities is responding to the pandemic.

One focus point is rural healthcare.

'There's a lack of health insurance, higher levels of uninsured populations in rural places, and a lack of access to facilities and that's why it's incredibly important for the Department of Agriculture … to do what it can to expand access to healthcare facilities," said Vilsack.

Vilsack said about 350 U.S. Department of Agriculture employees are engaged in vaccine work.

"We have veterinarians who are administering vaccinations in a number of states that authorize that," Vilsack said. "We have a number of Forest Service personnel who are who are experts in incident control, working to create opportunities for significant vaccination testing."

The USDA is investing in programs like the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program to support rural areas. He announced $42 million is being added to that program, about half of that is CARES money. The USDA estimates this will improve healthcare and education for five million rural residents.

Vilsack said other priorities include working on the SNAP program, workforce development and looking for ways to improve farm income, including through initiatives connected to climate change.

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