Senators offered up hearty bipartisan support Thursday for Alexis Taylor to be USDA's next trade undersecretary as lawmakers also pushed for a speedy confirmation process.
“As you know, I’ve known Alexis for many years and I think very highly of her,” said Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, who introduced her at a tranquil Agriculture Committee hearing. “I’m pleased she’s nominated for this position and I urge her quick confirmation.”
Iowa’s other Republican senator, Joni Ernst, broke in after Grassley’s introduction to also proclaim her support for Taylor.
“I am also a fan of Alexis Taylor as many of us are in this room,” said Ernst who highlighted the fact that both she and Taylor both grew up on Iowa farms, graduated from Iowa State University and served in the military. “I look forward to supporting your nomination.”
Taylor was deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at USDA during the Obama administration before being tapped in 2016 to lead the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Previously, she served as a legislative advisor to Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and then Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Taylor was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and served a deployment in Iraq with the 389th Combat Engineer Battalion.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters after the hearing that she hopes to have a panel vote next week on Taylor as well as two other nominees at the Thursday hearing. Jose Esteban is nominated to be undersecretary for food safety and Vincent Logan is nominated to be a member of the Farm Credit Administration board.
Farm groups have offered for all three nominees.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association offered praise for both Taylor and Esteban.
“NCBA has worked closely with Alexis Taylor in her previous roles at USDA and on Capitol Hill,” said NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kent Bacus.
NCBA Director of Animal Health and Food Safety Policy Chase DeCoite said Esteban’s “decades of experience in food safety, epidemiology, and public health make him an extremely qualified candidate for USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety and NCBA enthusiastically supports his nomination.”
Farm Credit President and CEO Todd Van Hoose said Logan “is well-qualified to serve on the FCA Board, and we encourage the Senate Agriculture Committee and U.S. Senate to move swiftly to confirm his nomination to fill this important open position.”
When it comes to Taylor, both Ernst and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., pressed her on Mexico’s hostility to genetically modified crops. Mexico is the largest foreign market for U.S. corn, but the country has not approved a new ag biotech trait for the grain since May of 2018. Mexico also plans to begin banning biotech corn for human consumption in 2024.
Taylor did not answer a question from Fischer on whether she would advocate enforcement action on Mexico, but the nominee pledged to work with U.S. and Mexican officials on the issue.
Taylor also promised Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that she would work with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on U.S. charges that Canada manipulates its dairy import quotas to stymie U.S. exports.
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