U.S. agriculture will have a new face representing it in world trade — someone who's far from a stranger to the inner workings of what's needed to advance trade.
President Barack Obama nominated Darci Vetter to be the new chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to succeed Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, who has served in the position for the past three years.
Mary Kay Thatcher, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said "she couldn't think of anybody who'd be better for the job."
Thatcher noted that Vetter's background is a perfect trifecta of experience that includes USTR, Capitol Hill and, most recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, giving her a great ability to advance the U.S. trade agenda.
Vetter currently serves as deputy undersecretary in the Office of the Under Secretary for Farm & Foreign Agricultural Services at USDA, a position she has held since 2010.
From 2007 to 2010, she was an international trade adviser on the Senate Finance Committee, which should prove helpful as well since that committee will need to approve her nomination before it goes before the full Senate.
Prior to working in the Senate, Vetter held numerous roles at USTR, including director for agricultural affairs from 2005 to 2007 and director for sustainable development from 2001 to 2005. Prior to that, she was special assistant to the undersecretary for management at the U.S. Department of State in 2000-01.
"She's really bright and very articulate," Thatcher said. "She's also a big-picture thinker and is really good at communicating with people who don't deal with trade on a daily basis."
Thatcher added that Vetter "exudes" a pro-export attitude and is well-liked.
U.S. Grains Council chairman Julius Schaaf said Vetter is an excellent candidate for the position and noted, "Her background in agricultural trade issues and USDA experience will be valuable for U.S. agriculture trade interests."
USTR Michael Froman made the announcement of Siddiqui's departure Dec. 12 and noted that Siddiqui played a key role in free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea as well as the recent World Trade Organization ministerial in Bali, Indonesia.
Siddiqui also served at USDA during the Clinton Administration and worked for the California Department of Food & Agriculture and in the private sector.