The Foreign Service Journal, May 2014

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2014 53 New USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs The Farm Bill passed by Con- gress at the start of February includes a provision mandat- ing a reorganization of trade functions, and the establish- ment of a new Under Sec- retary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs position at USDA. It is not clear yet how the reorganization will be done or what kind of impact it will have on FAS, but this is an area we will be tracking over the next few months. The law requires USDA to report an implementation plan to Congress within six months and carry out the changes within the next year. The main impetus for the change appears to be a desire to improve coordina- tion on sanitary and phyto- sanitary import and export issues; and to establish a single, high-level USDA representative for trade negotiations with senior foreign officials and within the executive branch. The Farm Bill does not specify how the reorganiza- tion will take place below the level of the new under secretary position. Nor does it specify what current under secretary position will be eliminated (the total number of authorized USDA under secretaries stays the same). FAS will obviously come under the new under sec- retary’s purview, but it is still an open question how other USDA agencies will be affected. Though the goal is to improve coordination, FAS will obviously come under the new under secretary’s purview, but it is still an open question how other USDA agencies will be affected. particularly on SPS issues, it is not clear how this will be accomplished. We have requested that AFSA be given pre- decisional involvement in the implementation of the Farm Bill changes, as well as any potential organizational changes within FAS. Based on what I have heard so far, we don’t expect any changes in FAS on the scale of the 2006 reorgani- zation. Nor do I expect major changes at our sister agen- cies, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. But as we go to press, it is still early in the process. Staying on top of this and making sure AFSA members have a voice in any changes is one of our top priorities. n FAS VP VOICE | BY DAVID MERGEN AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP. Contact: or (202) 720-3650 Senate Releases Hold • Continued from page 51 Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. It expressed our general concerns about the situation and sought to educate the senators about the nega- tive consequences to those on hold, as well as to the country. AFSA further pointed out that the number of individuals on the list had continued to grow, and stated: “These men and women who have patiently waited for months have jobs that are essential to our national security, economic prosperity and job creation. They should wait no longer.” Throughout this process AFSA heard from our mem- bers around the world. Not only were these individuals’ careers on the line, but they and their families were also facing significant financial repercussions regarding employment, education and housing. On April 1, AFSA issued a general call to action.We asked members to call their congressional representatives to urge movement on this issue. The response was excel- lent—and compelling. Our friends on the Hill received a significant number of calls and emails. Our efforts continued, and on April 10 we learned that the lists had passed through com- mittee and moved on to the full Senate, which ultimately passed them just before the two-week April recess. A Formula for Success This victory illustrates what can be accomplished with consistent, cooperative efforts. AFSA worked col- laboratively with the State Department to keep the pressure on. AFSA leadership and staff sought to educate Hill staff about the impact of these holds and remind them of the important work of the Foreign Service. AFSAmem- bers stepped forward and made their voices heard— amplifying a very important message. And finally—in an all-too- rare example of bipartisan cooperation—Senate Demo- crats and Republicans came together in support of the Foreign Service and the inter- ests of the American people. AFSA will keep you informed of developments on this issue, as well as other issues of importance to the Foreign Service community. We’re happy to hear from you about the issues that have an impact on your career. Contact your board representative or vice presi- dent, or email advocacy@ . n –Kristen Fernekes, AFSA Communications Director