December 15, 2020

Biden names pick for key trade position in cabinet

President-elect Joe Biden has made picks for two key federal positions that will affect agriculture production and trade of fresh and processed produce goods.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be nominated to reassume that role when the Biden administration takes office in January. Vilsack served in that role during both terms of Barack Obama’s presidency from 2009-2017.

“Secretary Vilsack is a knowledgeable hand at running this essential department, and the potato industry believes his experience will be a tremendous asset as USDA works to support all Americans recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles through a statement. “Over the past nine months, USDA’s efforts to support struggling family farmers and food-insecure citizens have served to elevate the importance of the department in the minds of all Americans — not just those in the agriculture community. Secretary Vilsack’s leadership and experience will allow him to hit the ground running in January to ensure the continued stability and safety of America’s food supply.

“Additionally, as the former USDA Secretary and as the current leader of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Secretary Vilsack has a deep appreciation for the importance of trade for U.S. agriculture. With one out of every five rows of U.S. potatoes destined for foreign markets, America’s potato growers look forward to a productive relationship with the Secretary to ensure our products remain on a level playing field with our international competitors.”

Katherine Tai

In addition, Katherine Tai is Biden’s choice to be the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Tai, who currently serves as chief trade counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, has history in the USTR office, where she served from 2007-2014. For final three years of that tenure, Tai was the chief counsel for China trade enforcement. Tai has a long history of dealing with China and worked on the USMCA trade deal.

Quarles discussed what the two appointments could mean for the potato industry, which trades heavily with Asia and Mexico, in second half of latest “Eye on Potatoes” podcast, including the ongoing fresh potatoes-to-Mexico situation, trade with China and other topics.

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