Senate confirms Alexis Taylor as USDA trade undersecretary

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alexis Taylor to become the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

The USDA trade undersecretary position had been vacant since President Joe Biden took office, Agri-Pulse reported. The Senate confirmed her after Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) lifted their holds on her nomination, according to POLITICO.

Who is USDA’s new undersecretary for trade?

Born in Iowa, Taylor has served as the Oregon Agriculture Department’s director since 2016.

In her new role, she will be in charge of the trade promotion and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) programs of the USDA. FAS serves as the American government’s eyes and ears for developments in international agriculture.

Taylor also served as deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at USDA under President Barack Obama. Before joining the Obama administration, she was a congressional aide during the consideration of the farm bills in 2008 and 2014.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) is part of the coalition of agriculture groups that urged the Senate to confirm Taylor and Doug McKalip, President Biden’s nominee for the top agriculture trade negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

What about Doug McKalip?

As of this writing, President Biden’s choice for agriculture trade negotiator, Doug McKalip, is still awaiting a vote.

In a positive development, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lifted his hold on McKalip’s confirmation. Senator Menendez previously placed a hold on McKalip to exert pressure on U.S. Trade Rep. Katherine Tai to confirm that the administration’s trade policy was in the country’s best economic interests.

However, according to his spokesman, Sen. Menendez lifted the hold following a fruitful conversation with Tai.

However, as of this morning, Sen. Hagerty is holding up McKalip’s confirmation.

BIO has called for confirmation of Taylor, McKalip

BIO has long called for confirmation of McKalip and Taylor. These roles are needed, especially in the context of Mexico’s proposed biotech corn ban, which could affect the entire agriculture sector and the broader economy.

According to a letter organized by U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Dan Kildee (D-MI), “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.”

The question of Mexico’s plan to ban biotech corn, also mentioned during Alexis Taylor’s confirmation hearing, has yet to be settled.

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