At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.
The face of agriculture is changing. The changes are reflected in the Ag Census data released last week, in the rural communities we serve, and in the way the Department is looking toward the future. With a 12 percent increase in minority farm operators and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farm operators since 2007, it’s clear that the agricultural landscape is changing. And it is vital that industry leadership evolves, too.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees more than 20 Federal Research and Promotion (R&P) boards, whose members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. These boards serve a variety of commodity industries, focusing on nutrition, research, marketing and consumer outreach. By helping develop new markets and strengthening existing ones, they create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country. Read more »
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, seated left, hosted a panel on the role of women in agriculture at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Photo by Bob Nichols
In February, it was my privilege to moderate a panel that featured four exceptional women at the Agricultural Outlook Forum. The break out session was titled “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” a lively and thought-provoking exchange on the future of women in agriculture.
Autumn Veazey, Debbie Hamrick, Kate Danner and Leslie Wheelock, all shared their passion for agriculture and gave great advice on how to earn a seat at the table. Read more »
This week, USDA released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides a snapshot of a rural America that remains stable in the face of difficult economic times. While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America.
Census data indicate that the loss of farmland has slowed significantly since 2007, which means that while a total of 72 million acres of farmland have been lost since the 1982 census, we have begun to stem the tide. New tools in the 2014 Farm Bill should help to further slow and perhaps even reverse this trend in some areas of the country.
The results reinforce what we have known for many years: the farm population is aging. While that is a concern, the data also show that the number of young farmers increased slightly and the number of minority farm and ranch principal operators increased dramatically, reflecting the changing face of America as a whole. We are hopeful that USDA policies that attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America will help to continue this trend. Read more »
This week at Ag Outlook, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden will host a discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing women in agriculture. Women represent part of a diverse population that has a growing interest in the future of agriculture, but young people, veterans, socially-disadvantaged producers and retirees also have a stake in that future.
On Monday, February 24th at 3 p.m. eastern, Deputy Secretary Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to share some highlights from Ag Outlook and discuss how USDA is working with the next generation of farmers and ranchers to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed. Read more »
Attendees at the 2014 NFU Women’s Conference pose for a group photo on the beach in Clearwater, Fl. Credit: Maria Miller, NFU Director of Education.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting with a dedicated group of women farmers and ranchers who are actively taking on leadership roles in farm organizations, cooperatives, and in their communities. They had gathered in the sunshine state for the National Farmers Union Women’s Conference to discuss opportunities and challenges on their own operations, what they believe the future holds for agriculture, and the role of women in that future.
Women face a unique set of challenges. They must find ways to balance the demands of family, community and the responsibilities to their businesses – all while being strong leaders within and for their communities. Read more »
National FFA officers meet with Secretary Vilsack at the Agriculture Department on January 15. USDA photo by Tom Witham.
“We are excited by the challenges you presented to us,” said FFA National Secretary Mitch Bayer at the conclusion of a half-hour meeting of National FFA officers with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the USDA Whitten Building earlier this week.
In his meeting with the officers, the Secretary covered a wide range of issues, including the immediate need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. When it passes, he said, the National FFA should study provisions that will help young, beginning farmers become established. He said there will be, he hopes, an easier path to credit and also support for the USDA microloan program, which helps beginning farmers and others buy equipment, rent ground, and buy livestock or supplies at affordable interest rates. The Secretary noted that 70 percent of the world’s farmers are women, and USDA is working to provide greater opportunities to women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and others who want to farm. Read more »