In some of its final actions of the year, the Senate approved by voice vote on Thursday the nominations of Doug McKalip as chief agricultural negotiator at the U.S. trade representative’s office and Jose Esteban as Agriculture undersecretary for food safety. Senate Agriculture chair Debbie Stabenow said confirmation of the nominees, who waited three months for a floor vote, was long overdue.
“Doug McKalip has proven that he is ready for the essential task of growing new markets abroad and protecting our producers from unfair trade practices,” said Stabenow.
During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, McKalip said, “It will be my duty to break down the barriers” to U.S. food and ag exports and to press U.S. trading partners to live up to existing agreements. McKalip has spent three decades in the federal government. He was director of the White House Rural Council under President Obama and has held a variety of jobs at the USDA. He was serving as trade adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack when he was nominated for the USTR post.
As undersecretary for food safety, Esteban, the chief scientist at the USDA’s meat inspection service, will be the USDA leader on issues ranging from the prevention of food-borne illnesses to the regulation of cell-cultured meat, now nearing commercialization.
Sen. John Boozman, the senior Republican on the Agriculture Committee, said Esteban “brings years of experience and a wealth of knowledge to one of the most crucial functions performed by USDA — ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply.”