Elaine Trevino has withdrawn from the nomination process to be the next chief agricultural trade negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, sending the USTR back to square one in its efforts to represent America’s farmers on the international stage.
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Trevino, former president of the Almond Alliance of California and former deputy secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will still get a job in the Biden administration, but not as chief agricultural trade negotiator.
“I urge the White House to quickly announce a new nominee for chief agricultural negotiator to advocate for red-white-and-blue farm goods in global negotiations,” Wyden said in a statement. “Farmers in Oregon and across the United States grow food the rest of the world wants. They need someone representing them at global negotiations as soon as possible.”
The development is a setback for the increasingly trade-dependent ag sector as it worries that international trade has taken a back seat during the Biden administration, which let Trade Promotion Authority expire and has not engaged in any new negotiations for free trade agreements.
On Tuesday, Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley lamented that it was taking too long to get Trevino on the job at USTR.
The development leaves two of the most significant ag trade positions in the federal government without a Senate-confirmed official or a nominee in the confirmation process. In addition to the USTR ag negotiator position, the Department of Agriculture is without a confirmed trade undersecretary and no one has yet been announced as the Biden administration's pick for the job.
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Trevino did not give a detailed reason in her nomination withdrawal letter she submitted to President Joe Biden on Monday.
“While this process has been intense as expected, I approached it with commitment and diligence given the importance of this role to the United States and America’s farmers and farming communities and economies,” she said. “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no timely path forward to gain Senate confirmation.”
In her letter, Trevino noted she was "excited to join the administration in another capacity" with a focus on "complex supply chain issues that have negatively impacted American agriculture."
When it comes to the nomination process for political appointments, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that it has become increasingly difficult.
“We have a very high threshold and we’re requiring folks to do things that they are just not willing to do,” Vilsack said. “We continue to search for somebody … that can pass through not just the law enforcement vetting that you have to go through, but also the ethical requirements. It’s frustrating.”
Spencer Chase contributed to this report.
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