Senate Finance to vote on McKalip today as Ag nominees wait
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote today on President Biden’s nomination of Douglas McKalip as chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The business meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. in Room 215 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. McKalip’s nomination has been widely praised by committee members and agriculture groups. It carries the rank of ambassador and requires Senate confirmation. McKalip is a long-time USDA civil servant who is an adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Meanwhile, nominees coming before the Senate Agriculture Committee continue to wait for confirmation hearings.
A source has told The Hagstrom Report that Republicans want to push forward with Biden’s nomination of Alexis Taylor to be agriculture undersecretary for trade and global agricultural affairs. Taylor is director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture but worked at USDA in the Obama administration.
But the same source said that Democrats on the committee want first to consider the nomination of Stacy Dean to be agriculture undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. Dean has told The Hagstrom Report that the committee has all her paperwork that needs to be submitted.
Republicans are expected to subject Dean to difficult questions because she is the deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services and Republicans believe USDA has gone too far in making changes to federal nutrition programs.
The committee has also not acted on Biden’s nomination of Jose Emilio Esteban to be agriculture undersecretary for food safety. Esteban is the chief scientist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
In addition, the committee has not acted on the nomination of Vincent Logan to be a member of the board of the Farm Credit Administration.
A spokesman for Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told The Hagstrom Report in an email, “We are working on moving all our nominees in a bipartisan way as quickly as we can.”
A spokesman for Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told The Hagstrom Report in an email that the Taylor, Esteban and Logan nominations “have been cleared for some time.”
The spokesman added, “Only one nomination requires additional time – the undersecretary for FNCS. We will receive a GAO [Government Accountability Office] report on the TFP [the Thrifty Food Plan] in October, a decision that GAO has already determined was procedurally flawed. Given that the nominee was intimately involved in the decision, we believe committee members should have the benefit of the GAO’s analysis before consideration.”
As the Agriculture Department has noted on its website, “The 2018 farm bill directed USDA to re-evaluate the TFP no later than 2022 and then every five years thereafter. Since the TFP was last updated in 2006, there have been notable changes to dietary guidance, food prices, and what Americans purchase and eat.”
USDA added, “The Thrifty Food Plan plays a critical role in calculating Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit amounts. By law, the cost of the TFP in June each year is equal to the maximum SNAP benefit for a household of four people for the following October through September. That amount is then adjusted to determine the maximum benefit for households of other sizes.”
The TFP represents the cost to purchase groceries for a family of four – an adult male and female, ages 20-50, and two children, ages 6-8 and 9-11, USDA said.
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