PFPI Statement on Selection of Tom Vilsack as USDA Secretary

Dr. Mary S. Booth, PFPI Director, issued the following statement in response to news that President-elect Biden has tapped former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to return as head of the USDA. PFPI has a long record of opposing Vilsack’s pro-biomass policies when he served as Agriculture Secretary under Obama. More background can be found HERE:

For Immediate Release: December 9
Contact: Laura Haight, US Policy Director – lhaight@pfpi.net 518.949.1797

During his time at USDA, Tom Vilsack worked hand-in-hand with the wood pellet industry to promote burning forest wood as a replacement for coal. Logging and burning forest biomass is not ‘renewable’ because burning wood emits more carbon pollution than fossil fuels and destroys forests just when climate scientists say we must reduce emissions and protect forests to take up more carbon from the atmosphere. Vilsack helped the wood pellet industry expand and wreak havoc on our forests, disproportionately harming communities of color in the U.S. Southeast.

PFPI wrote to Vilsack in 2016 challenging his misinformation about the climate benefits of burning forest wood for energy. We warned that millions of acres of vulnerable bottomland hardwood forests in the U.S. Southeast are at risk of being destroyed to supply the growing demand for wood pellets. These forests sequester carbon, provide critical habitat to a host of rare species, and deliver important ecosystem services to local communities.

America needs a climate-first vision for how we manage our lands and forests, not the ‘business as usual’ approach that Vilsack represents. President-elect Biden must clarify his climate and environmental justice agenda for the USDA because Tom Vilsack’s record on forest biomass has been ruinous so far.

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Partnership for Policy Integrity