As a fifth-generation farmer, Shari Rogge-Fidler sees the opportunity ahead for the future generation in agriculture and feels excitement for USDA’s engagement in the industry. It’s what encouraged her role in the Equity Commission on the Agriculture Subcommittee.
Rogge-Fidler isn’t your ordinary farmer. She has held several roles that shape her outlook on the farming industry and has led her to believe that the possibilities are endless. Currently, when Rogge-Fidler isn’t working with her family’s farm, she serves as president and CEO of Farm Foundation, an accelerator of practical solutions for agriculture, where they convene diverse groups to work on important issues in the agriculture sector.
“What I tell our young people on the farm is that there’s no better time to be involved in agriculture. As I’ve learned at Farm Foundation and in the field, times have changed and there’s opportunity here for men and women, for farmers of all backgrounds and walks of life,” Rogge-Fidler says. “It may seem daunting, it may seem hard, but it's a really exciting time to be engaged in the farming industry.”
Prior to her role at Farm Foundation, Rogge-Fidler’s work experience ranged from financial services and consulting to helping food and agriculture organizations navigate secondary growth. When it comes to defining equity, she reflects on this wide experience and remarks, “Equity means equal access to all of the programs, information and services of the USDA, as well as equal respect for all of its customers.”
As Rogge-Fidler has seen nearly every angle of the farming industry, she finds accountability to be a critical component when considering how to ensure and advance equity. “What excites me about the Equity Commission recommendations is that so many of them have accountability baked in. We've been really thoughtful about including accountability measures, which is important not only for the recommendations we’re developing but also for government services in general.”
For Rogge-Fidler, success of the Commission means lasting change that goes beyond this Commission’s tenure. “As a farmer, my experience with the USDA has been primarily through paperwork that’s needed for our farm,” Rogge-Fidler says. “With the Equity Commission, it's been a different experience being able to meet the decisionmakers and engaging with Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small for the work.”
As she’s told her next-generation farmers, this is the time to seize opportunity and make an impact in agriculture. “To me, equity is not political. Equity needs to be part of the USDA – and success will be that lasting change in the Department.”