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USDA adviser chosen as USTR chief ag negotiator

USDA by Bob Nichols McKalip Vilsack .jpg
USDA ADVISER MOVES UP: Doug McKalip (left), senior advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) participates in a listening session in 2016. McKalip has been with USDA for 29 years and is nominated to serve as the chief agricultural negotiator at USTR.
Doug McKalip has been with USDA for nearly 30 years, most recently serving as senior adviser to Secretary Vilsack.

After the withdrawal of the previous chief ag negotiator nominee, the White House officially nominated long-time USDA adviser Doug McKalip to the post. McKalip currently serves as the senior adviser to the USDA secretary and has been with USDA for 29 years.

Many ag trade issues have moved slowly without the presence of either a chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative or the trade undersecretary position at USDA being filled. In March, Elaine Trevino removed her name for consideration to be chief agricultural negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative, which had been stalled for the six months prior.

United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai explains since taking office, the Biden administration has expanded market access for the agricultural industry and delivered U.S. agricultural products to customers around the world.

“As a result of our close work with USDA, we are finally exporting fresh potatoes to Mexico, shellfish to the European Union, pork products to Vietnam, and most recently, bringing more U.S. beef to Japan,” Tai says. “USTR’s chief agricultural negotiator will play a pivotal role in maintaining and building on these successes on behalf of America’s workers, farmers, ranchers and producers.”

Tai adds, “Doug McKalip is a highly qualified nominee with decades of experience in public service. His institutional knowledge of USDA spans multiple administrations, from leading different offices to serving as trusted adviser to Secretary Vilsack and will help us continue the close collaboration between our agencies that has enabled so much success."

Since March 2021, McKalip served as senior adviser to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on all agricultural matters relating to trade, national security, animal and plant health regulations, and a wide portfolio of domestic and international issues. McKalip formerly served in a leadership capacity in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Biotechnology Regulatory Services.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine has disrupted the global supply of commodities, which increases the risk of food insecurity for millions of people,” Tai adds. “If confirmed, Doug will join a leadership team sharply focused on addressing these issues. I hope the United States Senate will swiftly consider Doug’s nomination and confirm him to this position.”

Vilsack adds “McKalip is highly qualified and exceptionally capable of serving the American people as chief agricultural negotiator. Having served as a key agriculture policy official for nearly three decades, he has worked on every aspect of farming from soil conservation and the supply chain to dealing with sensitive trade and national security matters. Through his service, he has represented American farmers around the world and advocated for U.S. agricultural products and technology.”

Vilsack adds McKalip has been a key member of his team throughout his tenure as secretary of agriculture and has demonstrated a consistent ability to tackle difficult issues and to develop bipartisan solutions to challenges when opposing views exist. “These skills will serve him well as Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative. We will miss having Doug here at USDA but know that American agriculture and USTR will be well served by having him in this new role,” Vilsack notes.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., welcomed the nomination.

“The chief agricultural negotiator position is essential when it comes to growing new markets abroad and protecting our producers from unfair trade practices,” says Stabenow. “That’s why I’ve led my colleagues in urging the White House to fill this important position. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I look forward to reviewing Mr. McKalip’s nomination.”

National Council for Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner adds, "Filling this role is critically important as American agriculture looks to expand markets across the globe and respond to the critical food crisis in the developing world caused by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Throughout his three-decade career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he has been a champion of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities, making him an excellent choice for this role."

MacKalip served as a senior adviser to the secretary of agriculture from 2015 to September 2016, and also as acting chief of staff. McKalip was senior adviser for Agriculture and Rural Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council, where he counseled President Barack Obama on issues involving farm, ranch and rural policy. He served as the director of the White House Rural Council and coordinated the Executive Branch-wide response to the 2012-2013 drought. McKalip has served in a variety of other roles at USDA, including as confidential assistant to the secretary and director of legislative and public affairs for the National Resources Conservation Service at USDA. 

McKalip also served as a White House intern from 1994-1995 and as a legislative assistant to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in 1992.

McKalip has a master’s in public policy from the American University in Washington D.C. and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a graduate of the Executive Fellows Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2020), a Fellow in the California Agricultural Leadership DC Exchange (2018), and a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Va (2005).

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