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September 22, 2021

Elaine Trevino: Meet the New Chief Ag Trade Negotiator Nominee

Ag groups showed unanimous support for the newest Chief Ag Trade Negotiator nominee. Here’s a few reasons why.

On September 13, 2021, President Biden announced several intended nominations for key economic and trade representatives. One candidate among them, Elaine Trevino, is slated to serve a critical role for American farmers and ranchers as the Chief Ag Trade Negotiator at a time when agricultural export trade is an increasingly important part of the vitality of the U.S. ag sector.

Professional Background

Elaine Trevino currently serves as President of the Almond Alliance of California (AAC). Prior to this role she was the Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture for both Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Davis. She is an Appointed Committee Member of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) and a Task Force Member of the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.

Serving as the leader of an organization that advocates for one of California’s biggest agricultural exports, Elaine is well-versed in tariff and non-tariff trade barriers and understands the importance of maintaining America’s strong trade agreements and global positioning.

Major Initiatives

Through these experiences, Trevino gained vast experience in international trade and legislative advocacy issues at both a local and federal level. As Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Trevino would serve as an ambassador for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) who oversees all negotiations related to agricultural trade. If confirmed, she will be the first Latina woman in this position. Her professional background along with current administration goals indicate that the following trade initiatives will be her focus as a Chief Ag Negotiator:

  • Addressing water quality and availability;
  • Improving worker safety;
  • Building a more resilient supply chain;
  • Negotiating retaliatory tariffs;
  • Incentivizing climate smart farming;
  • Opening new markets through trade partnerships;
  • Strengthening existing trade relationships;
  • Alleviating port congestion;
  • Increasing U.S. competitiveness; and
  • Tackling phytosanitary and food safety issues.

With agricultural trade forecasted to break export records in 2021 and 2022, the role of Chief Ag Negotiator is an important one in fulfilling this current trajectory through the cultivation of old and new trade partnerships for American farmers—and ag groups seem to agree that Elaine Trevino is up for the challenge.

High Praise from Reputable Ag Groups Nationwide

Since the nomination announcement, several agricultural groups and associations have issued messages of support, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Milk Producers Federation, and the North American Meat Institute. Trevino’s experience with California agriculture has made her nomination especially significant for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF).

“She brings a real-life understanding of California farm communities and served in key leadership positions for both Democratic and Republican administrations. Her experience in the top agricultural production and export state in the nation gives her deep knowledge of how our nation should best navigate trade issues for the benefit of farm producers across America.”

Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau President

USTR Katherine Tai also voiced her support for the swift confirmation of Trevino as a strong leader with a keen understanding of agricultural trade policy.

“Elaine Trevino understands the importance of America’s farmers and farming communities to the vitality of our economy. Her experience will help the Biden Administration craft durable trade policy that creates broad-based prosperity.”

Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative

Latest Updates on the Chief Ag Negotiator Nomination

Back in October 2021, 170 agricultural groups collectively sent a letter expressing the need for a quick confirmation of Elaine Trevino as Chief Ag Negotiator so she can move forward in her role to address key trade policy issues for the industry.

Despite this support, the confirmation process was delayed in the Senate. Six months after her confirmation, Trevino withdrew from the confirmation process, saying “it now seems clear that there is no timely path forward to gain Senate confirmation” and that she was looking forward to being actively involved in the current administration “in another capacity.” Reason for withdrawal is reportedly due to issues involving paperwork during the review process.

Because of this, many lawmakers are expressing their frustration in what Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called a “lackadaisical approach” to trade—with little focus on the importance of agricultural trade. At this time, both the Chief Ag Negotiator and the USDA trade undersecretary positions remain vacant.

Visit the AgAmerica Trade and Legislation page to stay informed on the latest developments in agricultural legislation and sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive updates straight to your inbox.

This article was last updated on March 29, 2022.

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