President-elect Barack Obama was expected to nominate former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to be the 30th secretary of agriculture later today. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is slated to be named to the post of interior secretary at the same news conference

Vilsack, who became the first Democrat to be elected governor of Iowa in 30 years in 1998, has said he is a strong supporter of biotechnology and renewable fuels but has called for phasing out subsidies for corn-based ethanol.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and an early supporter of Vilsack for the post, praised the selection, saying, “Tom Vilsack has the experience, dedication and forward-looking thinking critically needed to build a better future for all Americans in food, agriculture, conservation and the economic vitality of rural communities.”

Vilsack was considered the leading candidate for the post initially but had since indicated he did not think he would be the nominee.

Other contenders mentioned for the post were Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union, and former Texas Congressman Charles Stenholm.

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