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US agriculture secretary nominee faces big pay cut

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Tom Vilsack faces a sharp drop in income, perhaps a 50 percent cut, if he becomes U.S. agriculture secretary, according to a financial disclosure report released on Wednesday.

Vilsack, a former two-term Iowa governor, would earn $196,700 a year as a cabinet member in the Obama administration. His financial report showed income of around $400,000 in 2008, mostly from his work as a lawyer.

He listed $300,000 in salary from the law firm of Dorsey and Whitney. He said he would resign from the Des Moines, Iowa, firm upon confirmation to head USDA.

The reports showed Vilsack and his wife, Christie, own a 592-acre farm in Davis County, in southern Iowa that included 300-320 acres of crop land, 100 acres of timber “and the balance waste area.” The land is rented to a tenant under the oversight of a farm management firm in Ottumwa, Iowa.

In a letter to ethics offices at the Agriculture Department, Vilsack said he would not participate in USDA decisions that would directly affect the farm or income from it.

“During my tenure as secretary, my spouse and I will not engage in this farming operation and we will instruct our farm manager to maintain a fixed cash lease on the farm,” Vilsack wrote.

Vilsack receives $7,752 a year from USDA for idling part of the farm in the long-term Conservation Reserve.

On the disclosure forms, Vilsack said the farm was worth $500,000 to $1 million and was rented for $15,000-$50,000 a year. He reported a mortgage of $250,000-$500,000 a year on the farm. Financial reports list assets, income and liabilities in broad categories. (Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by David Gregorio) (chuck.abbott@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 898 8319))

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