The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved USDA adviser Doug McKalip to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, sending the nomination to the full Senate for final approval.

“Today’s unanimous vote by the Senate Finance Committee sends a strong, bipartisan message that Doug McKalip will be an outstanding Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative,” USTR Katherine Tai said iafter the 27-0 vote.  “Doug’s decades of public service and his unparalleled knowledge of agricultural and food security issues will be a major asset to our office as we continue to advance a trade agenda that benefits our farmers, ranchers, and producers.”

Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., lauded McKalip’s three decades in government service – many at USDA – and said, “There’s no doubt that he’ll be ready to step in and succeed as Chief Ag Negotiator on day one, and he’s sure to be busy.”

But it’s unclear when that “day one” will be, given that he needs a final Senate vote. 

“Given the importance of this position, I urge the United States Senate to confirm Doug as soon as possible so he can get to work on behalf of American agricultural producers, workers, and businesses,” Tai said.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Finance Committee said Wednesday that he supported McKalip’s nomination despite the Biden administration’s refusal so far to negotiate traditional market access agreements with countries that include tariff reductions on ag commodities.

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McKalip, Crapo said, “will play a critical role in opening opportunities for our farmers. Our farmers need those opportunities more than ever in the face of record inflation … Although, I am disappointed that the (Biden) administration has not prioritized agricultural market access.”

Crapo’s complaint is a common one on Capitol Hill, but Tai continues to brush off the criticism even as she is scheduled Thursday to kick off the second ministerial meeting with leaders from the 13 nations that have signed up for the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF.

Tai has argued that U.S. ag exports will benefit substantially from IPEF agreements that will lift non-tariff barriers on American farm goods.

“In addition to USTR's ongoing efforts to improve and maintain international market access for U.S. red meat, several new Biden administration trade initiatives are underway that will benefit from Mr. McKalip's agricultural experience and expertise,” U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom said Wednesday. “USMEF thanks the Senate Finance Committee for advancing his nomination and we urge prompt approval by the full Senate.”