To fill a post left vacant for most of the Obama Administration, the White House appointed Ray Starling to the position of special assistant to the President for agriculture, trade and food aid. Starling currently serves as chief of staff for Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.).
Agricultural groups praised the appointment, saying it sends a clear signal from the Trump Administration about the desire to make the right decisions for agriculture.
Collin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said Starling “gets it” and explained that he has a sharp understanding of how the economy works and especially of how the agriculture sector operates.
“This is an A-plus appointment,” Woodall said.
John Weber, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said by picking a “true champion of American agriculture” to serve in this key advisory role, “Trump is sending a clear signal of his commitment to reverse unnecessary regulations inhibiting pork producers and all U.S. farmers from doing what they do best: supplying the world with the most nutritious, affordable and abundant food available.”
Starling grew up raising hogs on a farm in North Carolina that his family continues to operate today. Weber said Starling’s “long, distinguished career in agriculture policy has always been informed by a deep understanding of pork producers and a sector so vital to our economy and national security.”
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said at a time when American agriculture faces urgent economic challenges, Starling is a great choice, and his appointment "offers us a clear sign of President Trump’s commitment to hear and consider the challenges faced by America’s farmers and ranchers and their rural communities as he charts this nation’s economic course."
Duvall added, “We look forward to working with Mr. Starling as he advises the President on economic policy matters. With about one-quarter of all U.S. agricultural production destined for foreign markets, certainly, we know that trade and market development are critical issues, but economic policy comes in many forms, including how regulations affect the ability of our farmers and ranchers to remain competitive and profitable. Mr. Starling understands those challenges, and we look forward to supporting him in this very important role.”
Starling's role as special assistant is housed within the National Economic Council, whose functions are best described in the executive order President Bill Clinton issued to create it in 1993: (1) to coordinate the economic policy-making process with respect to domestic and international economic issues; (2) to coordinate economic policy advice to the President; (3) to ensure that economic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President's stated goals, and to ensure that those goals are being effectively pursued, and (4) to monitor implementation of the President's economic policy agenda.