Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the appointment of 148 private-sector members to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) and six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATACs).

Congress established the advisory committee system in 1974 to ensure a private-sector voice in establishing US agricultural trade policy objectives to reflect US commercial and economic interests. USDA and the Office of the US Trade Representative jointly manage the committees.

The APAC provides advice and information to the Secretary of Agriculture and the US Trade Representative on negotiating objectives, positions and other matters related to the development, implementation and administration of US agricultural trade policy. The ATACs offer technical advice and information on specific commodities.

Cotton industry members named to the Tobacco, Cotton and Peanuts ATAC included Sledge Taylor, a Como, Miss., producer/ginner who serves as NCC secretary/treasurer; John Mitchell, a Cordova, Tenn., merchant who serves as Cotton Council International president; Kenneth Dierschke, a San Angelo, Texas, producer and Texas Farm Bureau Federation president; Dale Artho, a Wildorado, Texas, producer; Mike Quinn, a Garner, N.C., cooperative official; Harvey Shroeder, executive director of the Oklahoma Cotton Council, Frederick; and Michelle Huffman, a NCC economist, Memphis, Tenn.

"With U.S. agricultural exports reaching record highs as our farmers and ranchers bring the American brand to more of the world consumers, agricultural trade is demonstrating once again its vital role in the health of our nation’s economy," Vilsack said. "Members of these seven committees understand the importance of open markets to the U.S. economy. By serving on these committees, they have the opportunity to provide their expertise and knowledge to deliberations that influence U.S. trade policy, ultimately helping to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world."

"These appointments are an important step in the Obama administration’s on-going efforts to expand trade and bring new opportunities to America’s farmers and ranchers, as well as the businesses and workers they support," said Ambassador Kirk. "Agricultural exports are a critical component of America’s economy, and the input and advice these individuals will provide in the coming years will be indispensible in helping to identify and capitalize on new and emerging trade opportunities."

This initial group of committee members will serve until June 9, 2015. They will be supplemented by additional appointments over the next four years. Applications are encouraged at any time and will be reviewed periodically for additional appointments going forward. Information on applying is at www.fas.usda.gov/itp/apac-atacs/advisorycommittees.asp. Questions may be directed to Steffon Brown at 202-720-6219 or via e-mail to Steffon.Brown@fas.usda.gov.