WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2017 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will become president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council when he leaves office this month, says a source familiar with his plans.Tom Suber retired at the end of the year as president of the organization, which is funded by checkoff revenue to track and promote trade in American dairy products and ingredients.

Suber has been the group’s president since its inception 21 years ago.

In an email, Vilsack noted that there is a "lot of speculation going around these days," but said he would have nothing to say about "life after the administration" until he leaves his post. "I am focused on my current job and several items to get across the finish line," he said.

A USDA spokeswoman said she could not confirm Vilsack's plans. A spokeswoman for Dairy Management Inc., which founded the export council and manages the National Dairy Council and the American Dairy Association, said she could not confirm or deny that Vilsack would take over the council.

Vilsack, who has not discussed his post-USDA plans, is one of the longest serving agriculture secretaries in history, having served all eight years of the Obama presidency. Orville Freeman was the last person to hold the job for eight years, having served through the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.

Vilsack, who is a lawyer, served two terms as governor of Iowa.

Another famous Iowan, James “Tama Jim” Wilson, holds the record as the longest-serving Cabinet member. He served as Secretary of Agriculture for 16 years, from 1897 to 1913, and served three different presidents.

(Bill Tomson contributed to this report.) 


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