Swift confirmation urged for ag negotiator

Nearly 100 food and ag groups call for quick action on Doug McKalip nomination for chief ag negotiator.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

July 7, 2022

3 Min Read
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FREE TRADE NEEDED: Ag groups urge Biden administration to renew Presidential Trade Promotion Authority offering fast track approval for securing passage of negotiated trade deals.Getty Images/iStock Photos

A coalition of nearly 100 U.S. food and agriculture organizations called for the prompt confirmation of Doug McKalip as chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

After the withdrawal of the previous chief ag negotiator nominee, the White House officially nominated long-time USDA adviser McKalip to the post in early June. McKalip currently serves as the senior adviser to the USDA secretary and has been with USDA for 29 years.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, the groups highlight McKalip’s deep familiarity with the food and agriculture industry and institutional regulatory and trade experience. The letter also underscores McKalip’s ability to tackle some of the most pressing trade policy issues the industry is facing, including reducing barriers in the Indo-Pacific region, managing ongoing challenges with Mexico and enforcing trade agreements globally.

“Doug McKalip is an excellent nominee for the critical role of chief agricultural negotiator, especially as the United States needs to increase global trade and secure greater market access for U.S. products,” says John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association.

Since March 2021, McKalip served as senior adviser to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on all agricultural matters relating to trade, national security, animal and plant health regulations, and a wide portfolio of domestic and international issues. McKalip formerly served in a leadership capacity in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Biotechnology Regulatory Services.

“In addition to his current position as a trusted advisor to Secretary Vilsack, Mr. McKalip has served in numerous leadership positions in USDA and has represented American farmers, ranchers and agriculture around the world and advocated for U.S. agricultural products and technology,” the letter says. “We believe he is keenly aware of the importance of trade to agriculture related jobs and its essential role in this administration’s 'worker first' trade agenda.”

The letter adds the groups believe McKalip is “capable of addressing the critical need to open and maintain foreign market access and reduce barriers for U.S. food and agriculture workers and exporters for the benefit of consumers in the U.S. and across the globe.”

The letter also says the groups especially value McKalip’s “deep institutional regulatory and trade experience, which equips him to have an immediate impact in the position.” They state McKalip understands the critical need to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers in the Indo-Pacific region, the management of an expanding set of trade issues with Mexico, the enforcement of existing trade agreements and the imperative of tackling non-tariff barriers to trade around the world.

“We believe that Mr. McKalip has the experience and expertise to reduce foreign trade barriers, secure greater market access for U.S. products and ensure enforcement of clear and fair rules with our trade partners so U.S. food and agriculture workers and our industry sectors may fairly compete in the global economy,” the letter states.

Together, the group of associations represents much of the food and agriculture sector that is responsible for roughly one-fifth of the country's economic activity, directly supporting more than 21.5 million jobs - constituting more than 14% of total U.S. employment. As a net producing nation of food and agriculture products, foreign markets are critical to the economic vitality of the food and agriculture sector.

Along with the nomination McKalip, another key ag trade post awaiting action by the Senate includes Alexis Taylor to serve as USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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