According to media reports, President-elect Obama will announce former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as his choice for secretary of agriculture at a press conference scheduled for Wednesday. Obama also plans to announce his nomination of Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary at the same news conference.
Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa from from 1998 until 2006 and was a short-lived opponent of Obama’s in the presidential race. As governor, Vilsack was a strong supporter of ethanol and other biofuels as a way to help rural economies. The last Secretary of Agriculture from Iowa was Henry Wallace who served under Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1941. Wallace was a plant geneticist who founded what is now Pioneer Hi-Bred.
As interior secretary, Salazar will head a department that oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges and will play a key role setting the new administration’s environmental, energy and land-use policies.
Salazar has also has been a strong supporter of biofuels, this year co-sponsoring the Open Fuel Standard Act, legislation would require that half of all new automobiles starting in 2012 be flex-fuel vehicles warranted to operate on gasoline, ethanol, and methanol, or be warranted to operate on biodiesel. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will have to appoint a replacement to complete Salazar’s term in the Senate through 2010. Among the contenders is Salazar’s brother, John, who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.