WASHINGTON — Nearly 60 food and agriculture groups sent a letter to Senate leaders Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), asking them to secure US Trade Representative and US Department of Agriculture appointments before the end of the year.

The North American Meat Institute and the Meat Import Council of America were among the organizations to sign the letter.

The groups asked that the Senate confirm Doug McKalip’s position as chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the USTR and Alexis Taylor’s position as under secretary of agriculture for the USDA’s Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

“Despite unanimous support by the committees and widespread and bipartisan support the Senate has yet to confirm these highly skilled candidates,” the groups wrote. “Time is of the essence to confirm these nominees. American agriculture needs experienced leaders representing us in international negotiations.”

The groups call for speedy appointments given the many challenges facing the agricultural community.

“Between weather, transportation disruptions, increased foreign competition and the strengthening dollar, our nation’s food and agriculture industries are facing significant headwinds,” the groups said. “Twenty percent of American farm revenue comes from exports and America’s farmers, ranchers, food processors and manufacturers rely on complex and highly integrated supply chains that stretch across international borders. The food and agriculture products we export support over 1,000,000 US jobs.”

The letter states that despite unanimous votes by the Senate Agriculture Committee to advance Taylor on Sept. 27 and by the Senate Finance Committee approving McKalip’s nomination on Sept. 7, the Senate has yet to confirm the appointments.