WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — As part of an organization-wide restructuring, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue created the position of an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
USDA’s reorganization seeks to place agencies in more logical order. Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The USDA said it’s better for FAS to be under the new undersecretary for trade.
The secretary also announced that the department’s Rural Development agencies would report directly to the secretary of agriculture in recognition of the need to promote rural prosperity.
U.S. agricultural groups acknowledged that Perdue’s changes are evidence that their trade concerns are finally being heard.
“To have USDA recognize the importance of farm trade by creating this position is very encouraging, and we appreciate the administration’s foresight in doing so,” said Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association. “We know that President Trump has big ideas on trade, and it will be imperative to have high-level officials within the administration who understand the intricacies of global agriculture markets. Secretary Perdue has shown himself to be an advocate for agricultural trade, and the new undersecretary will be a similarly major part of those conversations.”
It is significant that one of Perdue’s first actions reflects his recognition and strong support for the role that agricultural trade plays in the economy, said Randy Gordon, president of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), and Gary Martin, president and chief executive officer of the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA).
"Reorganizing its structure and mission areas along these more functional lines, combined with the appointment of strong and capable officials to fill these positions, will help ensure the ongoing success of USDA programs that support trade and that USDA plays an influential role in helping inform and develop the Trump administration's overall trade strategies,” they said.
The National Corn Growers Association said it has long advocated for a dedicated position at USDA focused on increasing U.S. agricultural exports.
“In this farm economy, trade is more important than ever to farmers’ incomes. Overseas markets represent 73% of the world’s purchasing power, 87% of economic growth, and 95% of the world’s customers,” said Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “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.”
Perdue announced the changes in a report, which address congressional direction in the 2014 farm bill to create the new undersecretary for trade. The changes also in part respond to President Trump’s request of his cabinet to deliver plans to improve the accountability and customer service provided by departments.
“Food is a noble thing to trade,” Perdue said. “This nation has a great story to tell and we've got producers here that produce more than we can consume. And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”
According to the USDA, agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the U.S. economy as a whole. U.S. agricultural and food exports account for 20% of the value of production, and every dollar of these exports creates another $1.27 in business activity. Additionally, every $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 8,000 American jobs across the entire U.S. economy. As the global marketplace becomes even more competitive every day, the U.S. must position itself in the best way possible to retain its standing as a world leader, the USDA said.
“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. “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.”
To read more about the restructuring, click here.