The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 53

MAY 2014
New USDA Under Secretary for Trade
and Foreign Agricultural Affairs
The Farm Bill passed by Con-
gress at the start of February
includes a provision mandat-
ing a reorganization of trade
functions, and the establish-
ment of a new Under Sec-
retary for Trade and Foreign
Agricultural Affairs position
at USDA.
It is not clear yet how the
reorganization will be done
or what kind of impact it will
have on FAS, but this is an
area we will be tracking over
the next few months.
The law requires USDA to
report an implementation
plan to Congress within six
months and carry out the
changes within the next year.
The main impetus for
the change appears to be a
desire to improve coordina-
tion on sanitary and phyto-
sanitary import and export
issues; and to establish
a single, high-level USDA
representative for trade
negotiations with senior
foreign officials and within
the executive branch.
The Farm Bill does not
specify how the reorganiza-
tion will take place below
the level of the new under
secretary position. Nor
does it specify what current
under secretary position
will be eliminated (the total
number of authorized USDA
under secretaries stays the
FAS will obviously come
under the new under sec-
retary’s purview, but it is
still an open question how
other USDA agencies will be
affected. Though the goal
is to improve coordination,
FAS will obviously come under the
new under secretary’s purview, but it is
still an open question how other USDA
agencies will be affected.
particularly on SPS issues, it
is not clear how this will be
We have requested
that AFSA be given pre-
decisional involvement in
the implementation of the
Farm Bill changes, as well as
any potential organizational
changes within FAS.
Based on what I have
heard so far, we don’t expect
any changes in FAS on the
scale of the 2006 reorgani-
zation. Nor do I expect major
changes at our sister agen-
cies, the Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service
and the Food Safety and
Inspection Service. But as
we go to press, it is still early
in the process.
Staying on top of this and
making sure AFSA members
have a voice in any changes
is one of our top priorities.
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.
or (202) 720-3650
Senate Releases Hold • Continued from page 51
Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
It expressed our general
concerns about the situation
and sought to educate the
senators about the nega-
tive consequences to those
on hold, as well as to the
AFSA further pointed out
that the number of individuals
on the list had continued to
grow, and stated: “These men
and women who have patiently
waited for months have jobs
that are essential to our
national security, economic
prosperity and job creation.
They should wait no longer.”
Throughout this process
AFSA heard from our mem-
bers around the world. Not
only were these individuals’
careers on the line, but they
and their families were also
facing significant financial
repercussions regarding
employment, education and
On April 1, AFSA issued
a general call to action.We
asked members to call their
congressional representatives
to urge movement on this
issue. The response was excel-
lent—and compelling. Our
friends on the Hill received
a significant number of calls
and emails.
Our efforts continued, and
on April 10 we learned that the
lists had passed through com-
mittee and moved on to the
full Senate, which ultimately
passed them just before the
two-week April recess.
A Formula for Success
This victory illustrates
what can be accomplished
with consistent, cooperative
efforts. AFSA worked col-
laboratively with the State
Department to keep the
pressure on. AFSA leadership
and staff sought to educate
Hill staff about the impact of
these holds and remind them
of the important work of the
Foreign Service. AFSAmem-
bers stepped forward and
made their voices heard—
amplifying a very important
And finally—in an all-too-
rare example of bipartisan
cooperation—Senate Demo-
crats and Republicans came
together in support of the
Foreign Service and the inter-
ests of the American people.
AFSA will keep you
informed of developments
on this issue, as well as other
issues of importance to the
Foreign Service community.
We’re happy to hear
from you about the issues
that have an impact on your
career. Contact your board
representative or vice presi-
dent, or email advocacy@
–Kristen Fernekes, AFSA
Communications Director
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