With systemic racial inequity now a nationwide talking point, Vilsack also envisioned creating an “equity task force” inside the department. Its job, he said, would be to identify what he called “intentional or unintentional barriers" that prevent or discourage farmers of color from properly accessing federal assistance programs.
Vilsack also heavily backed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps, or SNAP — as a key instrument in helping the country's most vulnerable families survive and recover from the pandemic era. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists.
Vilsack received minimal pushback or criticism during confirmation hearings. One of the “no” votes came from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders later said that Vilsack would “be fine” but he would have liked “somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture.”
Vilsack's approval was hailed by the Food Research and Action Center, which focuses on food security and equity. The organization said Vilsack's department faces a looming challenge to “protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs to help address our nation’s hunger crisis that has been deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.”