National Press Club

Vilsack mum on next steps in Luncheon speech

October 4, 2016 | By Justin Duckham |

Club President Tommy Burr welcomes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the Oct. 3 Luncheon

Club President Tommy Burr welcomes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the Oct. 3 Luncheon

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declined to speculate on his future after President Barack Obama’s tenure ends early next year.

“I don’t think anybody should be talking about what jobs are available or what’s going to happen after the election,” Vilsack said during a Luncheon Oct. 3.

Vilsack, the only member of the cabinet to have served in the same position for the entire Obama presidency, said he would likely not run for Senate or any other legislative position.

“I have been a Mayor, I have been a state Senator, I’ve been a Governor and now I’ve been a Secretary,” Vilsack explained. “Here’s something I know about myself: I’m an executive. I like to make decisions. I like to implement decisions.”

While Vilsack did not directly hint at any potential positions with the next administration if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, the Secretary has been a long-time ally of the Democratic nominee, even going so far as to be on her Vice Presidential short list this summer.

Vilsack acknowledged that he had not even been convinced he wanted to finish the remainder of Obama’s presidency. He thought that the career employees of the Department were performing so well that he saw his responsibilities diminish, thus making it harder for him to justify the time away from his family.

Obama, however, convinced him to stay on by offering him a chance to oversee the administration’s response to the ongoing opioid epidemic, an opportunity that Vilsack said carried deep significance due to his mother’s struggle with addiction.

The Secretary’s appearance before the Press Club coincided with the release of a new USDA report revealing that the bio-based products industry, which uses either biological or renewable agricultural material, had created 4.2 million jobs and $393 billion in 2014 alone.

Vilsack touted the positive numbers as good news for rural America, which serves as the backbone for the industry.

“It’s…the industry that’s helping to reverse the job loss we saw in rural America during the recession,” Vilsack said. “We’re for the first time beginning to see job growth.”