(Dec. 17, 12:30 p.m.) Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is the choice of president-elect Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the pick won immediate praise from farm groups and produce lobbyists.

“I’m optimistic,” said Cathy Enright, vice president of government affairs in Western Growers’ Washington, D.C., office,

Enright said that Vilsack appears ready to help bring agricultural policy into the 21st century, noting that is a promoter of investment in renewable energy, a protector of the environment and a conservationist.

“We look forward to working with him,” she said.

During his tenure as governor, Vilsack was supportive of increased access to fruits and vegetables in nutrition programs, said Tom Stenzel, president of the Washington, D.C-based United Fresh Produce Association.

In a statement, Stenzel praised Vilsack, saying he is well equipped to confront such issues as funding for nutrition, food safety, trade and implementation of the farm bill.

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., also won support for his nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Interior.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., said in a statement that both Vilsack and Salazar have demonstrated “experienced, steady judgment” on agricultural issues.