We reported yesterday that former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack would be named the new Secretary of Agriculture, and indeed it came to pass. Reaction has been largely positive from the agricultural community, particularly in Iowa, but what about nurseries? Dwight Hughes, owner of Dwight Hughes Nursery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recently served as president of the American Nursery and Landscape Association. His impressions:
“Vilsack is, in my opinion, a very capable leader. He’s also a very quick learner. He’s a class person. He’s not really an agriculturalist. He didn’t grow up in Iowa. He practiced law in Iowa. He was mayor of a small town, then he was in the state senate, and then he was governor. Each step of the way he learned about agriculture, but it was heartland soybean-and-corn agriculture. He probably will need to be brushed up on the other segments of agriculture in a big hurry.”
In Iowa, unlike in Oregon, nurseries are an extremely low profile portion of overall agriculture. Therefore, Vilsack had minimal to no exposure to nurseries, as far as Hughes is aware. However, nationally, nurseries are the fastest growing segment of agriculture and can make a strong case for the new USDA secretary’s attention. Hughes said he sees no reason Vilsack won’t be up to the task.