Biden to nominate McKalip for ag trade negotiator

President Biden announced today, June 8, he will nominate Doug McKalip to be chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a position that requires Senate confirmation.

McKalip’s nomination comes after Elaine Trevino, a California almond executive, withdrew her nomination for the post amid questions about her taxes.

McKalip is a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and served in the Obama administration both as an aide to Vilsack and acting chief of staff and as senior adviser for agriculture and rural affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council. He served as director of the White House Rural Council and coordinated the executive branch-wide response to the 2012-2013 drought. McKalip has served in a variety of other roles at USDA, including as confidential assistant to the secretary, and director of legislative and public affairs for the National Resources Conservation Service.

McKalip has a master’s in public policy from the American University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a graduate of the Executive Fellows Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2020), a fellow in the California Agricultural Leadership DC Exchange (2018), and a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Va. (2005). He was also a participant in the Student Council for U.S. Affairs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who will oversee McKalip’s confirmation process, said, “It’s vitally important for Ambassador Tai [Trade Representative Katherine Tai] to have a full team that can ensure USA-grown wheat, berries, meat and other ag products can reach markets around the world. Mr. McKalip has an impressive history of public service in this field. I look forward to reviewing his nomination and filling this high-profile role.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., today welcomed the nomination.

“The chief agricultural negotiator position is essential when it comes to growing new markets abroad and protecting our producers from unfair trade practices,” said Stabenow. “That’s why I’ve led my colleagues in urging the White House to fill this important position. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I look forward to reviewing Mr. McKalip’s nomination.”

Vilsack said today that McKalip “is highly qualified and exceptionally capable of serving the American people as chief agricultural negotiator. Having served as a key agriculture policy official for nearly three decades, he has worked on every aspect of farming from soil conservation, and the supply chain to dealing with sensitive trade and national security matters. Through his service, he has represented American farmers around the world and advocated for U.S. agricultural products and technology.

“Doug has been a key member of my team throughout my tenure as secretary of agriculture and has demonstrated a consistent ability to tackle difficult issues and to develop bipartisan solutions to challenges when opposing views exist. These skills will serve him well as chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative. We will miss having Doug here at USDA, but know that American agriculture and USTR will be well served by having him in this new role. I urge the U.S. Senate to confirm him at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Tai said that McKalip “is a highly qualified nominee with decades of experience in public service. His institutional knowledge of USDA spans multiple administrations, from leading different offices to serving as trusted adviser to Secretary Vilsack, and will help us continue the close collaboration between our agencies that has enabled so much success.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine has disrupted the global supply of commodities, which increases the risk of food insecurity for millions of people. If confirmed, Doug will join a leadership team sharply focused on addressing these issues. I hope the U.S. Senate will swiftly consider Doug’s nomination and confirm him to this position.”

Both farm groups and members of Congress have been urging Biden to fill the position for months.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the American Soybean Association, the U.S. Grains Council, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, International Dairy Foods Association, and Farmers for Free Trade all issued statements praising the nomination and noting the importance of the position.

It will be up to the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees USTR and on which Stabenow sits, to handle the McKalip nomination. The position of chief agricultural negotiator carries ambassadorial status.

Biden recently nominated Alexis Taylor to be agriculture undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, but that position mostly involves the promotion of U.S. exports.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has not held hearings on the Taylor nomination or Biden’s nominations of Jose Emilio Esteban to be undersecretary for food safety, and Stacy Dean to be undersecretary for nutrition and consumer services, but a Capitol Hill source told The Hagstrom Report that the Agriculture Committee has not received all the paperwork that must accompany those nominations.


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