September 21, 2023
Almond Alliance of California President and CEO Aubrey Bettencourt will join several other farm group representatives from the West on a committee that will advise U.S. agriculture and trade officials on policy.
The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee will advise Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on a wide range of issues related to agricultural trade, according to the USDA.
Bettencourt will be one of 36 panelists and will serve a term through August 2027. Other committee members from the West include Richard Hudgins of the California Canning Peach Association, Robert Koch of Wine Institute, and David Puglia of Western Growers.
The panel also includes representatives from numerous national farm groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Cotton Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
In all, Vilsack and Tai announced on Aug. 24 that 130 new private-sector representatives would join agricultural trade committees. Some were named to panels specific to an industry sector – animals and animal products, fruits and vegetables, grains and feed, processed foods, sweeteners, and a group encompassing tobacco, cotton, peanuts and hemp.
The main committee, APAC, provides advice on the administration of U.S. trade policy, including implementation and enforcement of existing U.S. trade agreements and negotiating objectives for new trade pacts, the USDA explains.
Active on trade
The Almond Alliance’s CEO since 2021, Bettencourt has been active on trade issues, pushing last year to pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act to curb predatory practices by ocean carriers and working to ease a backlog of product.
“About a year ago when we realized we had about 1.4 billion pounds of almonds left to ship and we were coming up on the Aug. 1 new harvest, we needed to move product,” Bettencourt said earlier this year. “This was probably the peak of the dysfunction on the supply chain, post-COVID.
“You had carriers that were canceling routes out of Oakland, and carriers that if they did stop in a port, would say you had a four-day receiving window, only to call you halfway through and say you have four hours to get us a container,” she said.
Alliance officials say Bettencourt’s background lends itself to the trade panel’s work. As sustainable director for the California Cattle Council and Western United Dairies before moving to the Alliance, Bettencourt united diverse interests to help dairy farmers navigate new regulatory and natural challenges.
She is also a former deputy assistant secretary of water and science at the U.S. Interior Department.
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