In a two-day span, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan may have changed the lives of up to 2,000 young Mississippians.
Recently, Deputy Secretary Merrigan brought an outstanding presentation on the future of agriculture to the campuses of Mississippi’s two land grant universities: Mississippi State University in Starkville; and Alcorn State University in Lorman. Each presentation was attended by hundreds of people — mostly students who left enlightened about the world that waited for them in the wide arena of agriculture.
Merrigan was joined both days by USDA’s local leadership, including USDA Rural Development State Director Trina George, USDA FSA Director Michael R. Sullivan, and USDA NRCS Acting State Conservationist Al Garner. Merrigan was welcomed to each university by the President and university arranged briefings and private meetings with the Deputy Secretary.
The most moving part of Merrigan’s visit was the presentation that was given by to the crowd of students at each of the two universities. The presentation was a walk-through on the state of agriculture today and what the future holds. Most of the students in attendance were close to finishing their degrees and many of them would soon receive degrees in an agriculture-related field.
It was to these students that the presentation was aimed. A strong message in the presentation was that while the population of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural professionals is in danger of being depleted, this presented opportunity for those training in agriculture-related fields as the task will fall on them to fill those shoes. Merrigan included careers in USDA as one area of opportunity.
“Secretary Merrigan’s presentation was a hit with the students,” said George. “It was crisp and pertinent, and featured local trivia in addition to the basic information. This kept the program lively and helped the students digest the important information they were given. It was a honor to have her in Mississippi, but it was even more important that she geared her visit around helping those young people as they approach their life decisions.”
Merrigan’s presentation was state-of-the-art and included the use of hand-held participation devices – iClickers – by some audience members. Her time at these two universities was appreciated and well spent.
Anytime the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture visits, it is a big event. However, Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s visit, her presentation, and her enthusiasm may bring positive results for decades as many of the young people who heard her choose a career that replenishes this nation’s agricultural base. A big event indeed!