Ag community supports creation of undersecretary of trade

Legislative Watch: Creation of USDA trade undersecretary applauded; USDA to be reorganized; Lighthizer confirmed as U.S. trade rep.; Georgia asks Perdue to rescind GIPSA.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

May 12, 2017

4 Min Read
Ag community supports creation of undersecretary of trade
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announces and signs the citation signifying the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs in the USDA, a recognition of the ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture, on May 11, 2017, in Cincinnati, Ohio.USDA/Lance Cheung

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at USDA in recognition of the importance of international trade to U.S. agriculture.

Perdue says, “Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world. By working side by side with our U.S. trade representative and Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, the USDA undersecretary for trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world.”

The new undersecretary will be designated as “USDA’s multi-agency coordinator for agricultural trade policy, including (sanitary and phytosanitary) issues, nontariff trade barriers and other trade policy matters.” The Foreign Agricultural Service will report to the undersecretary of trade.

The reaction from the agricultural community was positive. The National Pork Producers Council says “The new undersecretary can help convey our message to the administration that it should work to preserve and expand foreign market access for U.S. agricultural products.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says, “This position will play a vital role in leading USDA’s efforts to capitalize on foreign demand for U.S. agriculture products and we look forward to working with the undersecretary to break down trade barriers and expand our ability to meet the growing demand for U.S. beef in key markets like Asia.” The National Corn Growers Association says, “In this farm economy, trade is more important than ever to farmers’ income. Now is the time for U.S. agriculture to fully capitalize on the long-term, increased global demand for our products around the world. Today’s announcement is a big step toward that goal.”

The undersecretary of trade was authorized in the 2014 farm bill with strong support from the agricultural community. However, the Obama administration did not move forward on implementing this position often times saying it would be too difficult. The last time the trade function of USDA was reorganized was 1978.

Perdue reorganizes USDA
Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced a reorganization of the USDA along with establishing the undersecretary of trade. A separate undersecretary for farm production and conservation is being established to focus on domestic agricultural issues.

The Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will be under the jurisdiction of this undersecretary. The undersecretary of natural resources and environment will supervise the U.S. Forest Service. USDA’s rural development functions will report directly to the secretary thus eliminating the undersecretary for rural development. The reorganization plan was submitted to Congress.

Lighthizer confirmed as U.S. trade representative
Bob Lighthizer was the last cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate to be the U.S. trade representative. This completes the leadership team for trade for the administration.

Lighthizer pledged to protect the trade needs of farmers and ranchers during renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement during his Senate confirmation hearing. He received strong support from the agricultural community with 138 food and agricultural groups sending a letter to the Senate urging his confirmation. The groups say, “U.S. trade interests are imperiled by delay, during which foreign competitors are ramping up efforts to supplant U.S. leadership and take away U.S. market share while nervous U.S. foreign customers seek out non-U.S. suppliers to meet their import requirements to ensure basic food security for their people.”

Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, Animal Health Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute and U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Georgia delegation urges USDA to rescind GIPSA
The Georgia House delegation wrote Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and urged him to rescind the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rules issued in the final days of the Obama administration.

The delegation says, “We urge you to promote American business, eliminate stifling regulation, and make a clear statement of support for American agriculture by rescinding the GIPSA interim final rule and withdrawing the two GIPSA proposed rules. Even based on GIPSA’s own analysis, these rules are completely out of line with our priorities to eliminate burdensome regulations and to promote American businesses. Rescinding the rules would allow livestock and poultry producers to market their animals how, when and where they want to without GIPSA dictating the transactions.”

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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