WASHINGTON — The US Senate has confirmed the appointment of Doug McKalip to chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Dec. 23. The news comes just days after the Senate’s confirmation of Alexis Taylor as undersecretary of trade and foreign agricultural affairs at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Dec. 21. McKalip’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate Finance Committee in June in a 27-0 vote.

Government officials and industry stakeholders applauded McKalip’s appointment, including pet food industry organization Pet Food Institute (PFI), the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

“Congratulations to Doug McKalip on his confirmation in this critically important trade position to the US agricultural economy,” said Mike Seyfert, president and chief executive officer at NGFA. “He is exceptionally qualified to lead in this role, which NGFA members have been eager to see filled so that US agriculture can be better represented and promoted in trade negotiations around the world.”

According to NGFA, McKalip has nearly 30 years of experience with agricultural policy and is currently a senior advisor to Vilsack. As chief agricultural negotiator, McKalip will be tasked with advancing the trade interests of several industries, including pet food.

“As Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Doug will build on the Biden Administration’s record of representing the interests of our farmers, ranchers, producers, and workers, including expanding market access for their products,” said Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative. “He will further enhance the strong collaboration between USTR and USDA as we work together to bring more US products to customers around the world. Doug will also help us address the rising risk of global food insecurity as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine and other supply chain disruptions. We face many challenges and opportunities, and I am confident that Doug is the right leader to help us tackle these issues at a critical moment for America.”

Earlier this year, Gina Tumbarello, senior director of international policy and trade for the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), laid out several missed trade opportunities for the pet food industry under the Biden administration. The organization, alongside other pet industry groups, continues to advocate for maintaining US pet food makers’ competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The Biden Administration nominated Taylor for the USDA position in May. She previously served as deputy undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services during the Obama administration and recently worked as the director of Oregon’s agriculture department.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott said Taylor’s background will allow her to be effective in the new role.

 "Her previous experience on Capitol Hill working for members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, along with her time as deputy undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, offers her unique insight into international and domestic farm policy and I am confident she will be able to advance US agriculture across the globe in her new role as Undersecretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs,” he said.

The PFI, NGFA and AFIA also commended Taylor’s appointment to the USDA.

“From her childhood on her family’s Iowa farm to her current position as the Oregon Department of Agriculture Director, Director Taylor has a long history of agricultural experience that makes her uniquely qualified for this role,” said Dana Brooks, president and CEO at PFI. “She has the experience necessary to expand markets for US agricultural exports and tackle important issues like global food shortages and inflation.”

Seyfert added, “We also congratulate Alexis Taylor on her confirmation as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at USDA. Her experience and leadership make her incredibly well-qualified for this important trade position. NGFA members look forward to working with Mr. McKalip at USTR and Ms. Taylor at USDA to continue to build markets for US agriculture.”

After writing a letter to Senate leadership earlier in December, food and agriculture groups lauded Taylor’s confirmation.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) applauded the completion of Taylor’s nomination.

“She is the right person at the right time to lead the nation’s focus on strengthening exports, expanding access to new markets and navigating an increasingly unpredictable global economy,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and chief executive officer of NAMI. “We look forward to working with her especially as meat and poultry products are seeing record demand at home and abroad.”

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) expressed its approval of Taylor’s completed confirmation.

“USMEF thanks the US Senate for its confirmation of Alexis Taylor, who will be a tremendous asset to USDA and a champion for US agriculture,” said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of USMEF. “USMEF had many opportunities to work with Ms. Taylor in her previous roles at USDA and she brings an exceptionally strong background and track record to this key position.”

Additionally, Jose Emilio Esteban, DVM, was confirmed by the Senate on Dec. 23 as undersecretary for food safety at the USDA, after being nominated for the position in November 2021.

Esteban has worked in several roles at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Since 2018, he held the position of chief scientist at the FSIS and worked for the agency since 2001.  

Prior to working with FSIS, Esteban served at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an epidemic intelligence service officer, staff epidemiologist and assistant director of the food safety office.

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