USDA Announces Creation of Undersecretary For Trade

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary (USDA) Sonny Perdue announced Thursday the Department’s plan to reorganize, including to create an undersecretary-level position focused on trade and foreign agricultural affairs. 

The new position – and subsequent shifts in responsibilities and reporting lines – has been under development for several years since being prescribed by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Department’s announcement also included changes to USDA's structure across several agencies, touching much of the 90,000-person department. Some of the proposed changes will go to Congress for approval, while others can be made administratively. 

“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 in making the announcement. “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 proposal document said the new undersecretary would be designated as “USDA’s multi-agency coordinator for agricultural trade policy, including [sanitary and phytosanitary] issues, nontariff trade barriers, and other trade policy matters.” It would maintain existing staff and funding resources for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the chief agency involved in overseas market promotion. 

As the Department developed proposals for the reorganization, USGC has provided information and perspective on the coordination and efficiencies needed to best work with global trading partners. Using examples from recent trade issues in China, Vietnam and other top markets, the Council encouraged close coordination of federal agencies including USDA’s FAS, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and other offices involved in trade. 

“Secretary Perdue’s announcement signals to farm country that the Trump Administration is listening to America’s farmers and ranchers,” the National Corn Growers Association, a USGC sister organization, said about the announcement. “In this farm economy, trade is more important than ever to farmers’ incomes…Now is the time for U.S. agriculture to fully capitalize on the long-term, increased global demand for our products around the world. Today’s announcement is a big step toward that goal.