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Senate Ag Committee holds confirmation hearing for Taylor, Esteban

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Legislative Watch: Vote on nominations next week; ag groups call on Senate leaders to confirm McKalip; rail strike averted.

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a long-awaited hearing on the nominations of Alexis Taylor for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Jose Emilio Esteban for Under Secretary for Food Safety. 

Taylor has served as the Oregon director of agriculture since December 2016. Previously, Taylor worked at the USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services where she worked to open new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the marketplace. Taylor also worked as a legislative assistant for agriculture for former Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Leonard Boswell (D-IA). 

In June, a broad-based group of agricultural organizations sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of Taylor’s nomination. The group said, “Director Taylor is a widely recognized leader on agriculture policy and has the domestic and international experience to shepherd U.S. agriculture through growing global changes of protecting food security, tackling inflation and expanding markets for U.S. agricultural products. She is a dedicated, hardworking, results driven public servant—qualities that are recognized by the large range of stakeholders supporting her nomination.”

Esteban has been with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service since 2001. He was appointed as FSIS chief scientist. Prior to joining FSIS, Esteban worked at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Committee plans to vote on the nominations next week.

Ag groups call on Senate leaders to confirm McKalip
Over 100 agricultural organizations and companies are calling on the Senate leadership to schedule a vote on the confirmation of Doug McKalip to be USTR’s chief agriculture negotiator. 

The letter said, “We write with strong concern over further delay because we are reminded daily of the need for greater attention and emphasis from the Administration on agricultural export market growth. USDA now forecasts lower agricultural exports for the next fiscal year and again has increased its import projection by another $5 billion, taking a small trade surplus this year and moving into net deficit territory next year.”

This position has remained open since the beginning of the Biden administration. 

Rail strike averted
President Joe Biden announced last week that the freight rail companies and their unions reached a tentative agreement which would avert a potential strike that was set for last Friday.

Biden said the agreement, “means that our economy can avert the significant damage any shutdown would have brought. With unemployment still near record lows and signs of progress in lowering costs, tonight’s agreement allows us to continue to fight for long term economic growth that finally works for working families.”

The new contracts provide rail employees a 24% wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate payout of approximately $11,000 upon ratification.

Prior to Biden’s announcement, a group of agricultural associations conveyed to the administration the severe impact a rail strike would have on U.S. agriculture. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the group said, “The U.S. rail network moves critical agricultural inputs and significant quantities of agricultural products. These essential items are transported by rail to domestic facilities and to ports for export abroad. A complete stoppage of the rail system would lead to shutdowns or slowdowns of rail-dependent facilities resulting in devastating consequences to our national and global food security.” 

Those signing the letter included the American Sheep Industry, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council and North American Meat Institute.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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