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Scholarly Pursuits

Posted by Martin Barbre, Administrator, USDA Risk Management Agency in Initiatives
Aug 27, 2020
A group photo
Group photo taken August 14, 2019.

The Secretary of Agriculture’s vision for USDA is to be “the most effective, efficient, and customer-focused department in the entire federal government”. As the Department’s agency that oversees Federal crop insurance, we have maintained three key goals to meet that vision:

  1. Expanding Federal crop insurance by covering more commodities.
  2. Ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent as efficiently as possible.
  3. Encouraging and supporting the next generation of producers, especially limited-resource, socially disadvantaged, and historically under-served farmers and ranchers.

When it comes to the third goal, we are proud of how we assist beginning farmers and ranchers, fund education and training through partnerships and outreach, and support a great program that I would like to highlight – the 1890 National Scholars Program.

Established in 1992, the 1890 National Scholars Program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 1890 Land-Grant Universities. College students accepted into the program receive valuable on-the-job training with USDA agencies and are often eligible for conversion to full-time employment after successful completion of degree requirements.

The 1890 National Scholars Program provides full tuition, employment, employee benefits, fees, books, and room and board each year, for up to four years, to selected students pursuing a bachelor's degree at 19 designated schools. Most of these institutions are historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, such as Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

As one of several agencies within USDA, the Risk Management Agency has financially supported the program for many years. We were excited to recently bring our first-ever 1890 National Scholar, Deborah Shows, on board at our regional office in Jackson, Mississippi.

Deborah is a native of the Magnolia State’s capital. Growing up in Jackson, she was introduced to agriculture at a young age by her grandfather and later attended Alcorn State University.

“During high school, I had a conversation with my 4th grade math teacher, and agricultural economics was brought to my attention as a potential major,” Deborah explains. “Alcorn State was recommended to me by a 10th grade chemistry teacher. He praised the agriculture department for its dedication toward its students. I ultimately chose Alcorn State University and agricultural economics as the major.”

Deborah excelled in her studies at Alcorn State, and the opportunity to apply to the 1890 National Scholars Program was presented to her by Michael Trusclair from USDA’s Office of Partnership and Public Engagements.

“Deborah was selected to intern with the Risk Management Agency, Jackson Regional Field Office over two summers, and she was one of the hardest working scholars,” Michael says. “Her knowledge and skill set rapidly expanded.”

Since coming on board with USDA and supporting the Federal crop insurance program, Deborah has excelled in analyzing data, received praise for her plant date reviews, and created informative charts and materials.

“Being an 1890 scholar is an honor that has presented numerous career opportunities,” Deborah says. “It has taught me an abundance of skills required to become a risk management specialist.”

It is my pleasure to report that Deborah became a permanent hire with USDA last month. It is wonderful to hear about the 1890 National Scholars Program and its goals and incredibly gratifying to see its successes throughout the Department and in our own agency.

You can read more about the 1890 National Scholars Program on USDA’s website,

Martin Barbre is the Administrator for USDA’s Risk Management Agency. He has served as President of the National Corn Growers Association, a member of USDA’s Illinois Farm Service Agency State Committee, and is a long-time farmer from Carmi, Illinois.

Deborah Shows, USDA Risk Management Agency
Deborah Shows with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) regional office in Jackson, Mississippi, gained valuable training, experience and opportunities as part of USDA’s 1890 National Scholars Program.
Category/Topic: Initiatives