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Tom Vilsack in July 2019. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as his agriculture secretary, giving him a role in Biden's climate agenda if confirmed to the job he also held under Barack Obama.

Why it matters: The Agriculture Department is relevant here for several reasons, including that Biden's platform calls for investing in practices that increase CO2 storage in soil and removing "regulatory roadblocks."

  • There's oil-and-gas projects and leasing on Forest Service properties, which means he would be part of Biden's (still vague) vow to ban new permitting on federal lands.
  • The department also traditionally collaborates with EPA on decisions about biofuels policy.

What we're watching: Politico reports that the chance to work on Biden's climate agenda "likely made the job more attractive for Vilsack to return."

  • Farm industry groups, after long resisting climate efforts, are becoming more interested in policies that incentivize soil carbon storage, per Politico.
  • "An idea recently gaining traction is to expand the USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. borrowing authority to create a carbon bank to help pay farmers and other landowners for carbon sequestration," their piece states.

By the numbers: "The agriculture sector accounts for about 10% of current overall U.S. emissions, while U.S forests sequester the equivalent of about 15% of carbon dioxide emissions from combustion of U.S. fossil fuels annually," according to the Climate 21 Project.

  • The group, which includes several Obama alums, is offering proposals for how a whole bunch of agencies can help address global warming.
  • Their USDA memo is here.

Yes, but: Vilsack's support for corn ethanol and his agribusiness background — he's led the U.S. Dairy Export Council since early 2017will likely rankle the left flank of the green movement.

  • Last night, Friends of the Earth said they were "deeply disappointed" with the choice.
  • "In order to implement Biden’s climate and racial justice agenda, Vilsack must be willing to transform the USDA to support a more diversified, regenerative, healthy and just food system," they said.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden Cabinet tracker: Which nominees have been confirmed

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All of President Biden's Cabinet nominees have now been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: Biden now has known, trusted people around him, many from the Obama administration, to help implement his policies and turn away from the tumultuous Trump years.

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot on live television

President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shot on live television on Monday, while also urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended Pfizer booster shots for millions of people, including those 65 years and older and individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

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