The contentious NAFTA re-negotiations are holding up another agriculture nominee in the Senate. Arizona Republican Jeff Flake has put a hold on the confirmation of Gregg Doud, President Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Trade Representative’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator. Sources say the hold involves concerns surrounding a controversial produce proposal that the United States has introduced into the North American Free Trade Agreement Negotiations. The seasonal produce proposal is aimed at protecting U.S. farmers from cheaper Mexican imports.
Growers in the southeastern U.S. support the proposal. Flake argues that the move would raise the cost of production, reduce the selection of fruits and vegetables for consumers, and hurt growers in western states like Flake’s home-state of Arizona. The largest U.S. port of entry for produce is located in Arizona. Flake hasn’t said what it would take to get him to lift the hold. Flake wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking him to commit to withdrawing the proposal at the next round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City. Flake wrote, “Efforts that lead to unnecessary restrictions on trade with our North American partners will have devastating economic consequences both in Arizona and nationwide.”
On the whole, Doud has been viewed as a favorable and non-controversial candidate. He served for eight years as the Chief Economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association before moving on to serve as an economist for the Senate Ag Committee. There, he worked under both Thad Cochran and Pat Roberts and was instrumental in crafting the 2014 Farm Bill.
Doud isn’t the only candidate held up as President Trump tries to fill positions during first year of office. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who flew through the confirmation process in October has a hold placed on him by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, reportedly in response the Iowa and other Midwestern states ability to reverse a series of incoming regulations many viewed as anti-renewable fuels.