The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alexis Taylor to be USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, a position that has been vacant since President Joe Biden took office.
Taylor, an Iowa native who has directed the Oregon Agriculture Department since 2016, will oversee USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and trade promotion programs. FAS is the U.S. government’s eyes and ears on agricultural developments overseas.
Biden’s pick to be the administration’s chief agricultural trade negotiator, Doug McKalip, was still waiting for a vote as senators hurried to finish their work for the year.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez put a hold on McKalip as leverage to get assurances from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai that the administration’s trade policy was serving U.S. economic interests.
However, Menendez lifted his hold on McKalip Wednesday afternoon after what a spokesman termed "a productive meeting" with Tai.
"During his months-long quest to address concerns regarding USTR’s accountability, Sen. Menendez has been laser focused on finding a path forward to increase transparency and is pleased to have received a commitment to achieve that goal," the aide said.
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Taylor was deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at USDA during the Obama administration. The department was subsequently reorganized to create the trade-focused mission area that she will lead.
Prior to joining the Obama administration, she was a congressional aide during consideration of the 2008 and 2014 farm bills.
During her confirmation hearing in September, she was pressed on Mexico’s plan to ban imports of biotech corn, an issue that has yet to be settled.
In a tweet, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Taylor's confirmation means USDA "can continue our critical work on a key priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and build on our already-record trade numbers under her experienced leadership."
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