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ASTA official nominated for chief agricultural negotiator post

President Bush has nominated Richard Crowder, the president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association, to serve as chief agricultural negotiator in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.

If approved by the Senate, Crowder will replace Ambassador Allen Johnson, who represented U.S. agricultural interests in the Doha Development Round WTO negotiations and other trade disputes until last summer.

Most agricultural organizations are supporting the nomination, citing Crowder’s previous experience at USDA (He served as undersecretary for International Affairs and Commodity Programs from 1989 to 1992) and in the private sector with ASTA and other organizations.

“Dr. Crowder’s experience in business and government will allow him to step in at a critical time and to provide valuable insight,” said Woods Eastland, National Cotton Council chairman. “His predecessor, Ambassador Johnson, did an outstanding job presenting U.S. agriculture’s position at the WTO, during negotiations leading to the CAFTA and in ensuring that markets were open to U.S. exports.

China remain open

Besides the ongoing challenges of the Doha negotiations, Eastland said the NCC is urging Crowder to redouble USTR’s efforts to ensure that critically important markets like China remain fully open to U.S. cotton exports.

“We also urge him to maintain the position that the Doha Round negotiations are a single undertaking and that no commodity can be singled out for early harvest or differential treatment,” he said.

The National Corn Growers Association said Crowder has a “long and distinguished career in agricultural policy and knows the corn industry well.”

“Dick Crowder brings to the negotiating table unique insight to the needs of farmers and ranchers coupled with solid experience in the government,” said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who will be Crowder’s boss. “He comes at a crucial time in the global trade talks, commonly known as the Doha Development Agenda, where negotiations on agriculture reform are key to opening markets worldwide.”

The Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings on the nomination, which must be confirmed by the full Senate.

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