Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack will be leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council starting next month, the organization announced today. It had been rumored for a few weeks that this would serve as Vilsack’s landing spot after President Obama’s administration came to an end. Vilsack resigned from his post as Secretary of Agriculture one week early last Friday.
Many in Iowa politics had wondered what Vilsack might plan for his post-Obama administration life, including whether he might come back to Iowa to run for office again. A few Democratic activists and donors hoped he’d consider running for governor in 2018.
In his many visits back to Iowa in the final months of the campaign, Vilsack had hinted at a desire to get involved again with rebuilding the Iowa Democratic Party and encouraging young leaders to step up. But he often stopped short of suggesting he’d make another run for office.
With this new job, any such continued involvement in Iowa politics will probably be limited. Based in Arlington, Virginia, the U.S. Dairy Export Council is an independent, non-profit organization that represents dairy producers in various trade roles. That gives Iowa Democrats one less prominent former elected to work behind the scenes going forward.
Here’s their press release from today:
Former USDA Secretary to Serve as President and CEO
ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) today announced that former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join the organization as president and CEO, effective Feb. 1, 2017. USDEC is a non-profit, independent organization that seeks to enhance the global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients.
“Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers. I’ve spent my career in public service as a tireless advocate for farmers and American agriculture and can think of no better way to continue this service than by leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council,” said Vilsack. “I look forward to partnering with the dynamic team at USDEC as well as agriculture, food industry and key stakeholders at home and abroad to advance the council’s mission and strengthen trust in American dairy.”
As president and CEO, Vilsack will provide strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC’s global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. This includes working with industry leaders to develop a long-term vision for building sales and consumer trust in U.S. dairy. Together with the USDEC board, he will create strategies to successfully achieve the shared vision. He will serve as the organization’s primary spokesperson and ambassador to a host of global and domestic stakeholders.
“The global dairy market is more competitive today than ever. Ambitious trade agreements, reasonable labeling and product standards, and other issues are vital to the growth of America’s dairy industry,” noted Thomas Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the umbrella organization that represents the broad interests of U.S. dairy and founded USDEC in 1995. “Secretary Vilsack’s impressive record of leadership and his proven ability to manage complex issues, combined with his breadth and depth of industry knowledge, made him the preeminent choice to take the helm of USDEC. I look forward to working with him.”
USDEC routinely partners with other dairy industry groups such as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation to address the needs of its members, which include producers, processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. An important component of Vilsack’s role will be working with and through these organizations to achieve results on behalf of the value chain.
“Secretary Vilsack is a proven leader on global issues ranging from child nutrition and food security to biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He shares the dairy community’s commitment to advancing responsible solutions to global challenges and collaboration across the industry,” said Paul Rovey, USDEC Chairman and Arizona dairy farmer.
Vilsack will succeed Tom Suber, who served as president of USDEC since its founding in 1995, and retired at the end of 2016. Under Suber’s leadership, global U.S. dairy exports showed significant growth, rising from the equivalent of roughly 5 percent of U.S. milk production to a high of 15.5 percent.
“We thank Tom Suber for his tremendous contributions to the growth of U.S. dairy exports and elevating U.S. dairy’s position globally. He leaves an impressive legacy at USDEC,” noted DMI’s Gallagher.
USDEC has more than 100 dairy industry, dairy exporter and affiliated entity members. Its work is supported by staff across the United States and internationally in Mexico, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
by Pat Rynard