Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vilsack supports fed fruits purchases, more trade deals

Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA ) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talk with the Secretary of USDA-Designate, Gov. Tom Vilsack prior to the hearing

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat assured of becoming the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, in a confirmation hearing today pledged to support fruits and vegetable programs for schools, and said more international trade deals generally would benefit farmers.

Additionally, he said that cellulosic ethanol would be a key part of a move toward a bigger biofuels economy.

Here is The Des Moines Register:

The Obama administration wants to accelerate the development of new versions of biofuels made form crop residue and non-food crops such as switchgrass. The plants' fibrous material, or cellulose, can be converted into alcohols or even new versions of gasoline or diesel.

"Moving toward next-generation biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, is going to be really important in order to respond" to concerns about the impact on food prices of using grain for fuel, he said.

Vilsack addressed a range of other issues, pledging, for example, to promote fruit and vegetable consumption and promising to ensure that any new international trade agreement is a "net plus for all of agriculture."

And here is The Miami Herald:

Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday while pledging enthusiastic support for federal purchases of fruits and vegetables.

A former Iowa governor, Vilsack effectively reassured specialty crop growers in states such as California, Florida and Texas that their interests will be protected within a sprawling agency most often associated with traditional Midwestern commodities.

"We can work with our schools to make sure fruits and vegetables are available," Vilsack said at the start of his session before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. "We will be very aggressive in this area."

Vilsack specifically praised groundbreaking specialty-crop provisions in the farm bill that was adopted last year over President George W. Bush's veto. These include $1 billion to purchase fruits and vegetables for school snacks in all 50 states. He endorsed other programs that help promote specialty crops overseas, and committed to support federal programs that assist organic agriculture.

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