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USDA Secretary Vilsack Seeks Texas’ Support For Infrastructure Spending, Trade Authority

In a visit to the Port of Houston, Vilsack made the case for priorities President Obama laid out in his State of the Union message earlier this week.

Tom Vilsack
United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Image courtesy of USDA.gov.

 

The White House is seeking to build support for authority to negotiate free trade agreements and for greater federal spending on infrastructure. That follows on remarks in the president’s State of the Union address earlier this week. On Thursday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack carried the message to the Port of Houston.

Secretary Vilsack noted the U.S. has a significant advantage over its competitors, when it comes to the transportation systems needed for exporting agricultural products, “But our competitors are, in fact, the Brazils, the Argentinas, the Chinas,” he said. “They are, in fact, investing billions of dollars in making their ports more modern. So it is important for us to invest in infrastructure. It’s important for us to have a long-term view when it comes to transportation systems.”

Texas ranks sixth in the U.S. in terms of the overall value of agricultural exports. It leads the nation in exports of cattle and cotton.

The secretary also made the administration’s case for Congress to grant President Obama trade promotion authority. When such authority is in effect, Congress can vote to approve or reject free trade treaties but cannot amend them. “Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has had trade promotion authority,” Vilsack said. “It really is a prerequisite to us negotiating larger multilevel trade agreements that we’re currently discussing in Asia and in Europe.”

The most recent grant of trade promotion authority expired in 2007. It was last applied to free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama — all concluded under President George W. Bush and approved by Congress in 2011.

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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