May 15, 2017
NPC endorses USDA undersecretary for trade

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said the move is being taken in recognition of the “ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture.” 

Secretary Perdue made the announcement on May 11 standing by barges filled with agricultural products along the banks of the Ohio River. 

“Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world,” Perdue said. “By working side by side with our U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the USDA undersecretary for trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world.”

The National Potato Council (NPC) issued a statement in support of the new position at USDA.

“With strong, focused leadership by this new Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and continued coordination with the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the potato industry and all of U.S. agriculture will be an economic  force to be reckoned with in world markets,” said NPC Executive Vice President and CEO John Keeling.

Currently twenty percent of the potatoes produced in the U.S. are exported, with Japan, Canada and Mexico being the top three markets.  Overseas markets represent 73 percent of the world’s purchasing power, 87 percent of the economic growth and 95 percent of the world’s customers. An increased focus at USDA on opening new markets and expanding existing markets will play an important role in the potato industry’s continued export success, according to the NPC statement.

“An Undersecretary within USDA with experience in international trade negotiations and trade policy issues will aid in the economic growth of the U.S.,” said Keeling.  “Potato growers are optimistic that this important new position will be filled quickly by an individual with those credentials.”

As part of a reorganization of USDA, Perdue also announced the standing up of a newly-named Farm Production and Conservation mission area to have a customer focus and meet USDA constituents in the field. A new undersecretary will selected for this new position as well. Under the reorganization plan, the undersecretary for natural resources and environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. A reduction in USDA workforce is not part of the reorganization plan.

Finally, Perdue announced that the department’s Rural Development agencies would be elevated to report directly to the secretary of agriculture in recognition of the need to help promote rural prosperity.

Perdue issued a report to announce the changes, which address Congressional direction in the 2014 Farm Bill to create the new undersecretary for trade and also are a down payment on President Trump’s request of his cabinet to deliver plans to improve the accountability and customer service provided by departments.

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