Biden picks USDA veteran for USTR agriculture negotiator post

First nominee withdrew after Senate Finance took no action

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., indicated Wednesday the committee would move on the new nominee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., indicated Wednesday the committee would move on the new nominee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 8, 2022 at 6:25pm

President Joe Biden said he has a new nominee for the job of chief agricultural negotiator who has deep roots at the Agriculture Department.

Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate Doug McKalip, a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to the negotiator post for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

McKalip has held a variety of USDA posts over nearly 29 years. He has had stints as senior adviser to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, senior adviser to the secretary, and legislative and public affairs director for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He also served as senior policy adviser on rural affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration. His responsibilities over the years make him familiar with commodity markets, trade issues and subjects such as biotechnology.

With the announcement, Biden has nominees for two trade posts that agriculture organizations say are critical to opening export markets, defending market access and holding trading partners to agreements.

He nominated Oregon Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor in May for the post of undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs for USDA. Biden’s first nominee for chief USTR agricultural negotiator, Elaine Trevino, requested that her name be withdrawn in March, saying it was unclear when the Finance Committee would act on her nomination.

Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., seemed to indicate Wednesday that the committee will move on the McKalip nomination.

“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,” Wyden said in a statement..

Wyden said filling the post would give U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai “a full team that can ensure USA-grown wheat, berries, meat and other ag products can reach markets around the world.”

Tai in a statement praised McKalip's background and expressed hope the Senate will swiftly confirm him.

“His institutional knowledge of USDA spans multiple administrations, from leading different offices to serving as trusted advisor to Secretary Vilsack, and will help us continue the close collaboration between our agencies that has enabled so much success,” Tai said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a Finance Committee member and Senate Agriculture chairwoman, also noted the importance of the negotiator position, calling it “essential when it comes to growing new markets abroad and protecting our producers from unfair trade practices.”

The American Soybean Association, International Dairy Foods Association and U.S. Grains Council welcomed news of McKalip’s pending nomination.

The International Dairy Foods Association said it “will be working with key congressional offices to urge his swift confirmation so the dairy industry may have a strong voice in trade policy decisions impacting our global competitiveness.”