U.S. agriculture is increasingly diverse, with farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, vendors, and more from various backgrounds. Just like their products, the operations and the men and women that run them are diverse – in gender, race, age, size, and production practices. At USDA, we are committed to supporting all of American agriculture with our programs and services.
My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is in a unique position to encourage and promote diversity, particularly when it comes to industry leadership. AMS oversees 22 industry-funded research and promotion programs that allow farmers and businesses to pool resources, set common goals, and make collective decisions about how to best develop new markets, strengthen current markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities covering a wide variety of topics from nutrition to sustainability. These programs, which create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country, are led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary. AMS has been working hard to ensure that research and promotion boards reflect the full diversity of American agriculture. We know that the programs are stronger when the boards represent the diversity of the industries they represent and the consumers they serve.
One such program is the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP). The 13 board members must be U.S. sorghum producers who have been nominated by Certified Nominating Organizations (CNO) and appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Recently, AMS recognized the National Black Growers Council (NBGC) as a CNO for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program Board of Directors. The NBGC received their eligibility just in time to participate in the 2014 board nominations, and the group took full advantage of this opportunity by nominating two members from their organization.
The NBGC is composed of about 80 multigenerational producers, primarily located in southern states from Virginia to Texas, who work to improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of black row crop farmers. NBGC’s recent certification provides a great opportunity for the organization to highlight its leaders. In addition, NBGC members can now help shape the sorghum research and promotion program and contribute to its success. NBGC’s certification is just one part of AMS’s efforts to include the full diversity of American agriculture in the boards, committees, and councils that we oversee. We know that increased diversity will help the boards improve outreach, attract qualified nominees, and strengthen their own operations.
By working with diverse stakeholders, AMS will continue to attract and maintain the diverse leadership necessary to support all of our programs and provide opportunities for success in the changing face of agriculture.