Farm Progress

Former USDA leader nominated for trade undersecretary

Alexis Taylor, Iowa native and current Oregon Department of Agriculture Director, named to USDA trade post.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

May 13, 2022

4 Min Read

Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, was nominated late Friday afternoon by President Joe Biden to the position of undersecretary for trade and U.S. agricultural affairs at USDA. Agricultural groups praised the nomination and called Taylor a “highly qualified candidate.”

Taylor is an Iowa native, who moved to Oregon after working 12 years in Washington D.C. where her work focused on U.S. agricultural and trade policy. Notably,Taylor served as the deputy secretary at USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services department where she worked to open new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the marketplace around the world.

AlexisTaylorUSDA.jpgPrior to her post at USDA, she served as an agriculture and trade policy adviser to senior members of Congress. Oregon Governor Kate Brown appointed Alexis as director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture in December 2016. 

"Alexis is a collaborative leader with a track record of working towards large-scale solutions in partnership with the communities she serves," says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "This spirit and approach position her uniquely for this role and will ensure cohesiveness between USDA and the Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs team. I am confident Alexis is the right person to lead as we continue to address global food security, promote American exports across the globe and strengthen trade relationships with our global partners.”

Taylor served on the 2020-2021 NASDA Board of Directors sharpening states’ impact on federal agricultural policy. Taylor also served on the NASDA Foundation Board from 2018-2022, developing and discovering new resources for state agriculture departments to better serve constituents. In an interview shortly after Taylor was appointed to director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, NASDA asked her, “In seven words or less, what is some advice you would offer your fellow agriculturalists?”

Taylor responded, “Challenge yourself and others to think differently.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, applauded her nomination and also called for the Biden administration to fill the position of chief agricultural negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. “U.S. agricultural producers need to have a leading voice on the world stage who can advocate for free and fair trade, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. Thankfully, Alexis Taylor has the right background and experience to hit the ground running, and I look forward to supporting her throughout the Senate confirmation process ahead,” Grassley says.

Ted McKinney, who served as the first USDA undersecretary for trade during the Trump administration, says he knows Taylor from her previous time served at USDA and more recently as she served as a National Association of State Departments of Agriculture member from Oregon. "From these experiences, I offer my enthusiastic endorsement for her candidacy. We know Director Taylor’s passion for seeking market opportunities for American farmers, ranchers and food producers of all types. Her previous experience at USDA, her character and her deep understanding of how regulations across the globe matter for individuals in our communities will benefit all Americans,” says McKinney, who now serves as NASDA CEO.

U.S. Grains Council president and CEO Ryan LeGrand congratulated Taylor on her appointment, saying, “She has a strong background in agriculture from growing up on a farm in Iowa, and also has a deep knowledge of trade issues. We look forward to working with her to promote American agriculture.”

National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Chandler Goule says he has worked with Alexis for over 15 years. He adds the industry appreciates her experience and understanding of the agriculture community and trade issues. “We are eager to see this key leadership role be filled quickly and encourage timely Senate consideration so she may begin important work at the USDA to advocate for U.S. wheat farmers and be an advocate for American agriculture around the world,” Goule says.

“Ms. Taylor has worked to open new markets for American agriculture in her previous position at FAS and as director of Oregon’s Department of Agriculture,” says U.S. Wheat Associates President Vince Peterson. “Looking ahead to the next farm bill negotiations, we know she will be an experienced advocate who can help explain to policymakers how important export market development programs are to our country’s farmers and ranchers.”

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw notes that while this post has been left open longer than the organization would have liked, IRFA is very excited to see Taylor put forward for this important position.

“First off, she’ll be able to hit the ground running. We enjoyed working with Taylor during her time as a staffer for former Congressman Leonard Boswell and in her role at USDA during President Obama’s administration. Taylor understands ag and the importance of trade,” Shaw says. “She brings a ton of experience to the position, and there’s no doubt she’ll be a great advocate for expanding ag and biofuels exports.”

Taylor is a graduate of Iowa State University and grew up on her family farm in Iowa, which has been in her family for 160 years. While still in high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. During her sophomore year in college her army unit was deployed to Iraq, where she served one tour with the 389th Combat Engineer Battalion. 

The post does require Senate confirmation.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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