One year ago this week, I was honored to be sworn in as Deputy Secretary of USDA.
Along with Secretary Vilsack, I have had the privilege to lead a remarkable team here at USDA as we have worked to implement the 2014 Farm Bill, create a one-stop-shop for new farmers and ranchers seeking access to resources as they begin their farm businesses and lead a nation-wide discussion about who our next generation of farmers and farm leaders will be.
I am most proud of the opportunities that I have had to meet, learn from, and support the thousands of new farmers and ranchers that I have met during my first year in office. As a daughter of farmers, shaping the future of farming and ranching is incredibly personal for me. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are exceptionally productive, passionate stewards of our land and it is essential they have all the tools they need to be successful business people.
Below you will find a few of our key achievements from the past year:
Implementing the 2014 Farm Bill
President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law six months ago on February 7, 2014. USDA has made tremendous progress in implementing the bill: thousands of farmers and ranchers have received critical disaster assistance, innovative new conservation programs are up and running, new risk management programs for producers are available with more tools to come, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been incorporated, and much more. Specifically for new farmers and ranchers, USDA has made available key resources to provide education and training, grow markets and expand business, invest in their land, better manage risk, and new flexibilities so that new farmers and ranchers can build capital and access land.
Creating a One-Stop Shop for New Farmers and Ranchers
USDA has now launched a resource, www.usda.gov/newfarmers, for new farmers and ranchers to get help and assistance accessing resources to help them begin or grow their farm businesses. Previously, new farmers and ranchers had to visit many different webpages to find out what USDA resources were most useful for them.
In June, President Obama issued a memorandum directing U.S. government agencies to take additional steps to protect and restore domestic populations of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies – critical contributors to our nation’s economy, food system, and environmental health. This memorandum called for USDA and EPA to co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force, which will be responsible for focusing federal efforts to research, prevent, and recover from pollinator losses.
Women in Agriculture
As USDA’s third female Deputy Secretary, I make it a point to meet with, encourage and offer assistance to women of all ages and walks of life who are interested in pursuing careers in agriculture. I visit these women during my travels and I am inspired by their energy and talents. We need each and every one of their voices to be heard in order to build a stronger, more diverse future for women in agriculture. At national meetings and conferences, I have had many thought provoking discussions on the unique challenges facing these women. I plan to expand this dialogue during my tenure at USDA and beyond.
Every person I have met this year came into agriculture through a different path. Some grew up on family farms and are returning, while others are from an urban area, starting to farm for the very first time. I am looking forward to hearing more stories and continuing to building a more diverse agricultural future in the years ahead.
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I throughly enjoyed your blog and have had similar experiences and feelings as yours since I became a federal employee last fall working with fellow farmers and ranchers. Still a rancher by night, I am also constantly impressed and inspired by the innovation and tenacity of our agriculture community. Having recently faced Hurricane Iselle head on, many of our farmers and ranchers simply went out the next morning and got back to work. Regardless of serious crop losses, damaged infrastructure, and limited services, new and old farmers and ranchers pulled together and have done all they can to help each other and the community. Inspiring stories are part of the perks when you work with farmers and ranchers every day. Thanks for the blog!