Possibility of Merging USTR with Other Agencies

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley sees that as a problem.

Published on: Jan 18, 2012

If Congress gives the Obama Administration the green light to reorganize the government, a single federal food safety agency is likely. If that happens, Office of Management and Budget Director for Management Jeff Zients believes the first proposal will be to merge the six business-oriented agencies, folding together the Commerce Department's core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Senator Chuck Grassley says President Obama may win Congressional approval for some money-saving agency consolidations, maybe in food safety, if he doesn't demand an up or down vote, but Grassley says one merger could be a problem.

"Except for incorporating the U.S. Trade Representative Office in the merger I think that he would have a good chance to get done what he wants done," Grassley said.

Some farm groups, including the American Soybean Association, argue absorbing USTR into Commerce or a new industry agency could hurt its role in reducing ag trade barriers. However, staunch ag supporter Grassley isn't so sure.

"I don't think that is a fair assumption if it is rolled into the Commerce Department," Grassley said. "Most of the objections to some of the free trade agreements have come probably from the Labor Department than any other department."

Still, Grassley complained in a statement last week that it's not surprising the President's focusing on trade for consolidation and added that trade is already a lower priority than it should be for this White House.

Separately, Grassley spoke on last week's Supreme Court hearing of an Idaho couple's challenge of an Environmental Protection Agency wetlands mitigation order that gave them no right to judicial review. The case could have obvious implications for agriculture.

"I hope that the Supreme Court rules in favor of the home owners," Grassley said. "Because I think you shouldn't have the government taking property without due process and without proper compensation."

Grassley also hopes the high court reaffirms other rulings it's made, so there's continued constitutional protection of property.