In Short

Oregon’s former agriculture director confirmed to lead foreign trade for USDA

By: - December 21, 2022 5:27 pm
Alexis Taylor at her Senate Confirmation Hearing

Alexis Taylor at her Senate confirmation hearing. (Screenshot/Sen. Chuck Grassley’s YouTube channel)

The former head of the Oregon Department of Agriculture was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday to oversee foreign trade in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

President Joe Biden appointed Alexis Taylor as undersecretary for trade and foreign agriculture affairs in May. The position has been vacant since Biden took office. 

Taylor will be tasked with building global food security and export opportunities for farmers across the U.S. Prior to Wednesday’s vote, Taylor told the Senate that she would protect people in food-insecure countries.

“As the diplomatic and humanitarian crisis has unfolded in Ukraine, the capacity building and food security programs at USDA will be even more critical to helping the world navigate a growing food security crisis. The United States plays a critical role in combating food insecurity and working to protect the most vulnerable,” she said. 

Taylors’ former deputy, Lauren Henderson, is now acting director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, according to the department’s spokesperson Andrea Cantu-Schomus. Henderson has worked for the Oregon Department of Agriculture for 22 years, she said.  

Gov. Kate Brown appointed Taylor to the role in 2016, in part to help Oregon farmers reach more global markets, according to a news release from Brown’s office at the time. 

Before Oregon, Taylor worked for 12 years in the USDA’s farm and foreign agriculture unit and before that for members of Congress from Montana and Iowa. 

Taylor grew up on a family farm near Holy Cross, Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, according to a statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. During high school, she had enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and served one tour in Iraq during her junior year of college, it said.  

At her confirmation hearing, Grassley, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he had known members of Taylor’s family for more than 50 years, including a cousin who was one of his political advisers, and her sister, who worked for him as a legislative aide. 

“I have known Alexis for many years, and I think very highly of her,” he said.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.

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