WASHINGTON — The US Senate confirmed Tom Vilsack as President Joe Biden’s secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23.

Vilsack previously served as secretary of agriculture under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. Before that, Vilsack served as governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007.

In his confirmation hearing Vilsack stated that the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice and equity and climate change will be his overarching priorities when he took over the agency.

Vilsack emphasized the USDA will do its part to end the pandemic.

“That commitment begins by doing all we can to distribute the vaccine so that we can get our economy back on track,” Vilsack said. “It also means following the science, instituting science-based measures and providing access to PPE to protect our workforce and partners. Our USDA food safety inspectors, for example, deserve not only our thanks for ensuring a safe food supply — they deserve knowing we have their backs.”

After his confirmation, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) congratulated Vilsack.

“We welcome Secretary Vilsack’s leadership and experience at USDA as we build on these effective protections, vaccinate frontline workers as quickly as possible, feed American families, and keep our farm economy working,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and chief executive officer for NAMI. “In addition, Meat Institute member companies remain at the ready to assist Secretary Vilsack and USDA in ensuring rural communities have access to the vaccine.”

David Scott, House Agriculture Committee Chairman, also issued a statement of approval.

“I applaud the Senate for approving Secretary Tom Vilsack to head the Department of Agriculture for a second time,” Scott said. “I am excited about working with him and his staff to ensure that USDA works to support our farmers in an equitable way. I look forward to Secretary Vilsack joining us at our House Agriculture Committee hearings over the course of his tenure to provide critical updates on the important work of USDA.”