The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Vilsack endorses Ag undersecretary for trade idea

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack endorsed the concept of an Agriculture undersecretary for trade last week.

At present trade issues are handled by an Agriculture undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. The Senate and House versions of the farm bill call for the creation of a separate undersecretary for trade in order to give the position more prestige and to allow an undersecretary to be devoted to trade issues and to management of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Asked at the Farm Journal Forum on Thursday, Vilsack said that the proposal “would probably enhance trade efforts.”

The secretary described the change as an “upgrade” of the existing position of a deputy undersecretary who is in charge of trade issues.

But Vilsack also noted that when the Office of Management and Budget proposed merging all trade issues under a new trade division within the government, agriculture groups objected to that. He said that while agriculture is often handled within a trade ministry in other countries, in those places agriculture is the main industry.

“Our view is that we want to make sure we have a specific person in the room for agriculture,” he said.

Vilsack also endorsed the idea of an Agriculture undersecretary for trade at a recent meeting of the government’s advisory committee on agricultural trade, according to a participant in that meeting.