The vote was 92-7.
Vilsack, 70, will now be tasked with helping farmers hard hit by former president Donald Trump’s trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened thousands of workers at meatpacking plants and deepened the challenges of hunger and food insecurity.
During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Vilsack made clear the challenges facing the Department of Agriculture are different than 12 years ago.
“The world and our nation are different today than when I served as agriculture secretary in a previous administration,” Vilsack said. “Today, the pandemic, racial justice and equity and climate change must be our priorities.”
Biden called him, “The best secretary of agriculture I believe this country has ever had.”
Vilsack will be pressed to address the needs of rural communities who overwhelmingly supported Trump over Biden and are worried about Democrats passing new regulations.
Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders joined six Republicans in voting against the nomination.
“I think we need somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture,” Sanders told reporters. “I think he’ll be fine, but not as strong as I would like.”
In 1998, Vilsack became the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa in more than 30 years. He served as governor from 1999 to 2007 and chaired the Democratic Governors Association for a year. In 2009, the Senate unanimously confirmed Vilsack to be agriculture secretary.
After stepping down in 2017, Vilsack became the president and CEO of the US Dairy Export Council. Last year, he won a $150,000 Powerball prize in the Iowa Lottery.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Arlette Saenz and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.
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