New chief ag negotiator nominated

Published on: Dec 18, 2013

U.S. agriculture will have a new face representing them in world trade, but someone who's far from a stranger to the inner workings of what's needed to advance trade.

President Barack Obama nominated Darci Vetter to be the new chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and succeed Ambassador Islam Siddiqui who has served in the position for the past 3 years.

Mary Kay Thatcher, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said "she couldn't think of anybody who'd be better for the job."

Thatcher attributed her perfect background with a trifecta of experience at USTR, Capitol Hill and most recently U.S. Department of Agriculture giving her a great ability to advance the U.S. trade agenda.

Vetter currently serves as deputy undersecretary in the Office of the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at USDA, a position she has held since 2010.  

From 2007 to 2010, she was an international trade advisor on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, which should prove helpful as well since the Senate Finance Committee will need to approve her nomination before it goes before the full Senate.  

Prior to working in the Senate, Vetter held numerous roles at USTR, including director for agricultural affairs from 2005 to 2007 and director for sustainable development from 2001 to 2005.  Prior to that, she was special assistant to the undersecretary for management at the U.S. Department of State from 2000 to 2001.  

"She's really bright and very articulate," Thatcher said. "She's also a big picture thinker and is really good at communicating with people who don't deal with trade on a daily basis." Thatcher added her pro-export attitude "exudes from her" and she's well-liked.

Julius Schaaf, USGC chairman, added that Vetter is an excellent candidate for the position. "Her background in agricultural trade issues and USDA experience will be valuable for U.S. agriculture trade interests," Schaff said.

Vetter received a B.A. from Drake University and an M.P.A. and Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced Dec. 12 of Siddiqui's departure.  Froman noted that Siddiqui played a key role in the Panama, Colombia and Korea free trade agreements as well as the recent World Trade Organization ministerial in Bali.  Siddiqui also served at USDA during the Clinton administration and worked for the California Department of Food & Agriculture and in the private sector.