U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) led a letter to President Joe Biden with 32 of his Republican colleagues urging him to quickly nominate two qualified individuals to the positions of Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). These roles have been vacant since the beginning of the Biden Administration, leaving American farmers, producers, and their families behind.
“Iowa’s farmers and producers feed and fuel our country and the world, but right now, they lack dedicated advocates at the highest levels of the federal government. President Biden needs to stand up for rural America and immediately nominate two qualified individuals to serve as Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the good of our farmers, our economy, and our country,” said Rep. Feenstra. “With a record $183.5 billion expected in agricultural exports this year alone, we must ensure that our rural communities have a seat at the table when negotiating trade deals to open foreign markets and sell their quality product to the world.”
In their letter, the lawmakers wrote “the United States consistently ranks as one of the world’s top producers of various agricultural commodities, such as corn, wheat, milk, and soybeans. To maintain its standing as a global leader, we must prioritize nominating individuals who represent U.S. agriculture at the international level.”
“We were happy to see the USDA is actively conducting trade missions, like its recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, but we fear that our farmers and producers are not being fully represented without a nominated Under Secretary. Our concerns grew last week, after four new trade missions were announced without any recognition of the need to fill these positions,” the lawmakers continued.
Cosigners of the letter include Reps. Rick Allen (R-GA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jim Baird (R-IN), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Mike Bost (R-IL), Ted Budd (R-NC), Ben Cline (R-VA), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Sam Graves (R-MO), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Yvette Herrell (R-NM), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Trent Kelly (R-MS), David Kustoff (R-TN), Julia Letlow (R-LA), Tracey Mann (R-KS), Mary Miller (R-IL), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), John Rose (R-TN), David Rouzer (R-NC), Austin Scott (R-GA), Jason Smith (R-MO), David Valadao (R-CA), Ann Wagner (R-MO), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR).
“For nearly a year and a half, President Biden has left U.S. farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers voiceless at the negotiating table,” said Rep. Mann. “Without a Chief Agricultural Negotiator or a USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, producers are getting cheated in the global marketplace. China owes us $16 billion in purchases of agricultural products, India is subsidizing their wheat and rice nearly five times more than the allowable limit under World Trade Organization rules, and agricultural trade was omitted entirely from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. President Biden must promptly fill these positions and bring America’s producers back to the table.”
“Iowa farmers have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years. Droughts, derechos, high prices, the pandemic, lower returns, and overregulation have all negatively impacted their bottom line,” said Rep. Miller-Meeks. “The Administration needs to act to support farmers immediately by nominating qualified individuals to important positions at USDA and USTR. Our farmers could use certainty and stability right now and providing these nominations would be incredibly helpful.”
“Farmers in the Central Valley and across the country should have a seat at the table in international trade negotiations,” said Rep. Valadao. “This administration’s failure to fill these critical positions at the USDA and USTR is damaging to our standing as a global leader in agriculture and the farmers and ranchers that feed the world.”
“International trade is a major source of demand for American agricultural products. It’s critical that American farmers are represented by public officials at the USDA and USTR who are advocating for their interests, but President Biden hasn’t even bothered to make appointments to vacant and important trade positions. On this and so many other issues, the Biden Administration has abandoned our farmers. They deserve better,” said Rep. Davis.
“Our farmers and producers rely on exports for their livelihoods. It is unacceptable that these critical positions at the USDA and the USTR remain unfilled, leaving our farmers without a voice,” said Rep. Balderson. “Our farmers deserve – and should expect – strong advocates in their corner at these agencies; we urge President Biden to fill these positions with qualified nominees immediately.”
“Washington state is a global leader in agriculture production – our farmers and ranchers produce over 300 commodities, from apples and potatoes, to hops, wheat, onions, and sweet cherries, much of which is destined for foreign markets. Consequently, over 40% of all jobs in Washington are tied directly to trade,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Given the current geopolitical arena, it is more important than ever that the Biden Administration stand up for our farmers and ranchers by promptly appointing federal agriculture trade negotiators at both USTR and USDA who can work to ensure America remains a leader in international agriculture.”
“The war in Ukraine is majorly disrupting the world’s food supplies—and American farmers are ready to help fill that gap, but they do not have advocates on the global stage. The Biden Administration has had 15 months to appoint critical agricultural trade positions, yet have failed to do so, unfortunately proving that their commitment to American agriculture is lackluster,” said Rep. Allen.
“The Biden Administration lacks a clear agenda as it relates to the agriculture industry,” said Rep. Cline. “Allowing these two positions to go unfilled is doing a great disservice to our Nation’s farmers, and we must ensure that rural communities do not continue to get left behind. The President must expeditiously submit nominations for these positions to make certain American producers have advocates on the world stage.”