Multiple news sources are reporting today that as expected, Tom Vilsack will stay in President Barack Obama's cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The USDA has a budget of about $150 billion and is the third-biggest cabinet agency in spending after Defense and Health and Human Services. Food stamps for needy families account for about half of the department's spending, with the remainder taken up by other nutrition programs and subsidies for farmers such as insurance for crops including corn, wheat and cotton.
Working on a new long-term farm bill will be a major task for Congress this year. The "fiscal cliff" deal extended some but not all important farm programs temporarily.
Vilsack may tangle with Representative Steve King, who just became chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. In other Obama cabinet news, Janet Napolitano will keep her job as head of the Department of Homeland Security.
UPDATE: Interesting trivia courtesy of Alan Bjerga: "Should he serve until 2017, the former Iowa governor would be the first person to head the Department of Agriculture for two terms since Orville Freeman led the agency under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s."
SECOND UPDATE: Added a statement from Vilsack after the jump.
Statement released by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, January 14:
"President Obama and I share a deep appreciation for rural America and its unlimited potential in the years ahead to feed a growing world population, revolutionize America's energy, further protect our natural resources and create more jobs here at home. We will continue to urge Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will help us continue USDA's wide range of efforts to support this work. As we look ahead to a promising future in our small towns and rural communities, I am pleased to continue working alongside President Obama to grow more opportunity in rural America."