McKalip confirmed to be chief agricultural negotiator

The new year will begin with a chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Doug McKalip, President Joe Biden’s nominee, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 22.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai praised the confirmation.

“Since he was nominated to be USTR’s chief agricultural negotiator in June 2022, Doug McKalip has generated broad, bipartisan support from members of Congress, governors, and state agriculture commissioners—as well as strong endorsements from key stakeholders,” Tai said. “His decades of public service, including his time at USDA as a trusted advisor to Secretary (Tom) Vilsack, makes him uniquely qualified to take on this important role.

“As chief agricultural negotiator, Doug will build on the Biden administration’s record of representing the interests of our farmers, ranchers, producers, and workers, including expanding market access for their products. He will further enhance the strong collaboration between USTR and USDA as we work together to bring more U.S. products to customers around the world. Doug will also help us address the rising risk of global food insecurity as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine and other supply chain disruptions. We face many challenges and opportunities, and I am confident that Doug is the right leader to help us tackle these issues at a critical moment for America.”

Since March 2021, he has served as senior advisor to Vilsack on all agricultural matters relating to trade, national security, animal and plant health regulations, and a wide portfolio of domestic and international issues. McKalip formerly served in a leadership capacity in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Biotechnology Regulatory Services. He served as a senior advisor to the secretary of agriculture from 2015 to September 2016, and also as acting chief of staff.

He served as the director of the White House Rural Council where he counseled President Barack Obama on issues involving farm, ranch and rural policy and coordinated the executive branch-wide response to the 2012-2013 drought. McKalip has served in a variety of other roles at USDA, including confidential assistant to the secretary, and director of legislative and public affairs for the National Resources Conservation Service at USDA.

The National Corn Growers Association supported approval of the nomination.

“We are pleased that the Senate voted to confirm this nomination,” said National Corn Growers Association Vice President of public policy Brooke S. Appleton. “We look forward to working with Mr. McKalip as we address Mexico’s looming decree that would ban imports of biotech corn.”

This, on the heels of the Senate’s Dec. 21 confirmation of Alexis Taylor as USDA’s under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, is great news for agriculture, according to the American Soybean Association.

“These two votes cap off months of advocacy by ASA and other agricultural groups to see McKalip and Taylor confirmed to key agricultural trade positions. Their responsibilities within those roles, and how they work with farmers to help us with trade, markets and more, are essential to our day-to-day jobs out on the farm—and touch every farm state in the country,” said Daryl Cates, ASA president and soybean farmer from Illinois.

The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council welcomed the U.S. Senate’s confirmation.

“The role of the agriculture ambassador is critical to elevating U.S. agricultural priorities within USTR and with our trading partners,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, in a news release. “Today’s Senate confirmation of Doug ensures that American dairy farmers will be strongly represented at the negotiating table as the U.S. pursues full implementation of USMCA dairy terms and engages in trade discussions with Indo-Pacific partners and others. Doug understands the value that comprehensive trade agreements have brought to American farmers and ranchers, and we encourage him to be a vocal advocate for new agricultural market access opportunities.”

The U.S. Grains Council praised the decision.

“Combining his extensive international experience and more than 28 years of government service at the USDA, his strong background in farm and trade policy and his knowledge of biotechnology will be very helpful to advance trade priorities and open markets for U.S. corn, sorghum, barley and co-products.”

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture voiced its approval in a news release through its CEO Ted McKinney.

“Throughout his three decades of leadership in critical roles in agriculture trade policy, including his current role as senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, McKalip has represented American farmers, ranchers and agriculture around the world and has fiercely advocated for U.S. agricultural products and technology. We need knowledgeable and experienced leaders like McKalip to navigate the complex international trade and food security challenges our world is facing.”

NASDA has strongly supported McKalip’s nomination and has advocated for a swift confirmation.

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Vilsack also thanked the Senate noting it had not only approved McKalip but also Taylor and Jose Emilio Esteban, Ph.D. as under secretary for food safety.

“USDA is ready to hit the ground running in 2023 to keep expanding our economy from the bottom up and middle out and ensure that rural communities, farmers, ranchers, and producers are empowered with the tools necessary to thrive,” Vilsack said.

Esteban has worked in several roles at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Since 2018, he has held the position of chief scientist at the FSIS. Esteban has worked with the agency since 2001. Before joining the USDA, Esteban worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an epidemic intelligence service officer, staff epidemiologist, and assistant director of the food safety office. He serves as the chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Committee on Food Hygiene, a committee that helps define food hygiene standards for international trade.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].