It is time for the Senate to confirm two officials tasked with protecting America’s interests in agricultural trade, says a coalition of agriculture groups that includes the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).
Doug McKalip was nominated for Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in June, and Alexis Taylor was nominated for USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs in May. Both were approved by committee votes in September, yet a full Senate vote has not occurred.
They are needed to address barriers to ag trade—particularly with Mexico, where a presidential decree to block imports of gene-edited corn in 2024 has sparked a threat of U.S. legal enforcement action.
They also both have long experience working in agriculture and trade. McKalip has said biotechnology is essential to food supply and advocates using “every tool” we have under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to protect it, adding “This will be a key area of priority for me.” He noted that “biotechnology and agriculture innovations” are helping us manage the supply and climate challenges facing our food. Meanwhile, “Taylor is a widely recognized leader on agriculture policy and has the domestic and international experience to shepherd U.S. agriculture through growing global changes,” BIO has said.
The current Senate session ends Jan. 3. “We urge the U.S. Senate to confirm Doug McKalip and Alexis Taylor by the end of this year,” says a coalition letter co-signed by BIO. “American agriculture needs experienced leaders representing us in international negotiations.”
BIO continues calls for action
In particular, BIO has expressed concerns about the situation in Mexico. Mexico’s apparent inability to uphold an open, transparent, and science-based biotech regulatory system has sparked fears that this approach will go beyond how it handles corn and will affect the entire agricultural sector, BioNews reported.
On Friday U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) organized a letter urging U.S. Trade Rep. Ambassador Katherine Tai to take action on Mexico’s treatment of ag biotech, specifically biotech corn.
The letter argues the “Mexican government has not maintained a science-based biotech regulatory system for the past four years and is moving forward with the implementation of a presidential decree to phase out the importation of genetically engineered corn by January 2024.”