Politics & Government

Obama to name Iowa ex-Gov. Vilsack as agriculture secretary

WASHINGTON — Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for agriculture secretary, a Democrat familiar with the decision said Tuesday.

Vilsack's nomination was expected to be announced at a Wednesday news conference in Chicago, where Obama also was expected to formally tap Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to head the Interior Department.

The Democrat who confirmed Obama's selection of Vilsack spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination hadn't been formally announced. Vilsack couldn't be reached for comment.

He'd be the fourth former presidential primary rival slated to serve in Obama's administration, along with Joe Biden as vice president, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Bill Richardson as commerce secretary.

Vilsack, 58, is an attorney affiliated with the Des Moines office of a global law firm. He's advised clients on agribusiness development, conservation and renewable energy, according to the Dorsey & Whitney firm's Web site. He's been a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products, and as governor was a member of an ethanol coalition. He's also advocated alternative energy development, specifically wind-generated power, as a way to boost rural and agricultural areas.

Vilsack, Iowa's governor from 1998 to 2006, was briefly a contender in the 2008 presidential race but withdrew in February 2007, weeks after Obama announced he'd run. Vilsack backed Clinton after bowing out of the contest, but supported Obama in the general election.

Vilsack aced out several other possible contenders for the post, including at least two members of Congress, a California wine-agriculture expert and the head of a national association of black farmers.

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