Sen. Jeff Flake today released his hold on the nomination of Gregg Doud, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative.

Flake’s surprise announcement comes as the pressure was mounting from farm and ranch groups who want to see Doud (center in above photo) fighting for their interests as the U.S. renegotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement and considers new trade pacts.

The Arizona Republican’s hold on Doud has been linked to his concerns about a controversial U.S. proposal to make it easier for U.S. produce farmers to file anti-dumping cases against Mexico. Flake addressed the concerns in the statement he released today:

“Given the importance of U.S. agriculture and what’s at stake for them in the NAFTA negotiations, I am pleased that this nomination can move forward. While certainly there are areas in the NAFTA agreement ripe for modernization, adding ill-advised seasonal or regional components to existing trade remedies would lead to needless trade restrictions, devastating economic consequences, and likely retaliation.”

The announcement on Doud also comes on the heels of a letter sent to Flake by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, promising to work with Flake on his concerns about the USTR’s “seasonality” proposal.

The letter was key to Flake releasing the hold, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans., told Agri-Pulse.

“Gregg Doud is needed … at USTR and the sooner he can get to work, the better off we will all be,” Moran said.

Flake said he also got a promise from USTR Robert Lighthizer to meet with Arizona business people who would be affected by the U.S. proposal.

That “seasonality” proposal is being championed mostly by Florida tomato farmers who are struggling to compete with cheap imports from Mexico. Fruit and vegetable importers, packers and distributors are firmly opposed.

Doud sailed through his nomination hearing and was then approved in a bipartisan vote in October by the Senate Finance Committee. The lifting of the hold clears the way for the final hurdle, a full Senate vote.

"This is great news for America's cattlemen and women, and for all agricultural producers. We're glad that Senator Flake has finally heard our call for him to drop his hold and allow Gregg Doud to start working to improve market access around the world for our producers,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden. “With talks continuing on NAFTA, the Korea-U.S. trade agreement, and access to many other markets still up in the air, it's imperative that the U.S. Senate now move as quickly as possible to confirm Doud's nomination."

(Spencer Chase contributed to this report.)