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That Was Fast: Vilsack Lands with U.S. Dairy Export Council

Things can move very quickly in the food industry, and Tom Vilsack is the perfect example. In less than a week, the former agriculture secretary resigned from his post and landed as the head of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

On Monday, we reported on Vilsack’s abrupt departure from USDA. In his farewell email to employees, Vilsack only noted that he was looking to remain within the agriculture industry but didn’t detail those plans. It turns out he was holding a few cards up his sleeve.

USDEC posted a press release Jan. 17 noting that Vilsack will join the organization as president and CEO, effective Feb. 1. The non-profit, independent organization has a mission statement of enhancing the global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients.

USDEC noted that Vilsack will provide strategic leadership and oversight of the organization’s global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. Vilsack expounded upon his upcoming roll:

“Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers. I’ve spent my career in public service as a tireless advocate for farmers and American agriculture and can think of no better way to continue this service than by leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council… I look forward to partnering with the dynamic team at USDEC as well as agriculture, food industry and key stakeholders at home and abroad to advance the council’s mission and strengthen trust in American dairy.”

Vilsack will succeed Tom Suber, who served as president of USDEC since its founding in 1995, and retired at the end of 2016. Under Suber’s leadership, global U.S. dairy exports showed significant growth, rising from the equivalent of roughly 5% of U.S. milk production to a high of 15.5%.

Paul Rovey, USDEC Chairman and Arizona dairy farmer expressed his thoughts on the hiring and Suber’s departure:

“We thank Tom Suber for his tremendous contributions to the growth of U.S. dairy exports and elevating U.S. dairy’s position globally. He leaves an impressive legacy at USDEC… Secretary Vilsack is a proven leader on global issues ranging from child nutrition and food security to biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He shares the dairy community’s commitment to advancing responsible solutions to global challenges and collaboration across the industry.”

I thought we’d see you again sooner or later, Mr. Vilsack. Maybe just not this quick.