December 16, 2008 / 11:18 PM / 9 years ago

Obama picks Vilsack as agriculture secretary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama, a backer of tighter farm subsidy rules and new-generation biofuels, selected Tom Vilsack from the major U.S. farm state of Iowa to be agriculture secretary, said a Democratic official on Tuesday.

Obama plans to announce the nomination on Wednesday, along with his selection for Interior secretary, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar.

Vilsack, 58, who was a popular two-term governor of Iowa, was the first Democrat to enter the race for president won by Obama, but dropped out of the contest in February 2007. He was not immediately available for comment.

His major issues as governor were funding education and bringing more high-tech agribusiness to Iowa. Before serving as governor, Vilsack was mayor of Mount Pleasant and an Iowa state senator.

Critics said Vilsack was too much of a supporter of agricultural biotechnology and not enough of a friend to organic or sustainable farmers.

Reporting by Charles Abbott, Editing by Jackie Frank

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