Biden is expected to nominate Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

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Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to tap former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to reprise his old job leading the department, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Vilsack, a former two-term governor of Iowa who has deep roots in rural America, where Democrats have struggled mightily over the past two presidential cycles, led the Agriculture department from 2009 to 2017 during nearly the entire tenure of former President Barack Obama.

The former secretary has long supported Biden, backing the president-elect in November 2019 before the Iowa caucuses.

A source told CNN that Biden decided to select Vilsack largely because he “felt it was important to bring in someone with experience” dealing with the intricacies of the department, from handling trade issues with farmers to managing a hunger crisis that’s become a reality for many Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Vilsack pick would also represent another example of Biden choosing an individual with ties to the Obama administration and with whom he has a preexisting relationship.

In a Senate that will be closely divided regardless of which party wins the January 2021 Georgia runoff elections, Vilsack is also a nominee who can attract bipartisan support for confirmation. In 2009, he was confirmed by unanimous consent.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said on Tuesday that he would be willing to advocate for Vilsack during the confirmation process.

“I like what Vilsack did as secretary of agriculture for eight years, and if he was in for another four years it would be OK with me,” he said during a Tuesday phone call with rural reporters. “I would be glad if he wants me to speak for him before the [Senate] Agriculture Committee.”

Grassley added that Vilsack has been “very helpful in getting a lot of things done and bringing them to the attention of people.”

Vilsack was first elected as governor of Iowa in 1998, serving from 1999 to 2007. In late 2006, he launched a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, only to end his campaign in February 2007 and endorse then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. After Clinton lost the nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Vilsack backed the Democratic presidential nominee, who went on to win the 2008 presidential election.

This story has been updated.