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Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was quickly approved as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Now the sport is to figure out who will come into USDA with Vilsack. First on board is John Norris as chief of staff, according to Jerry Hagstrom of CongressDaily (who keeps good tabs on the department). Norris is a former Iowa Demoratic Party leader and chair of the Iowa Utilities Board.

A message from the Rural Assembly

Who Vilsack names as deputy secretary is likely to be controversial. Hagstrom has two sources who said this top spot could go to Chuck Hassebrook, executive director for the Center for Rural Affairs. Hassebrook (above) has been a vocal critic of existing farm programs — he favors strict limits on farm payouts — and Hagstrom quotes some sources as saying his nomination could have trouble getting out of the Senate Ag Committee. Hassebrook is favored by USDA reformers and if he’s not chosen, they could object.

Other candidates include Karen Ross, president of the California Winegrape Growers Association, and Jim Miller, chief of staff and chief economist at the National Farmers Union. Miller, a former wheat grower, was also a top aide to Sen. Kent Conrad of North Da

A message from the Rural Assembly

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