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diversity

Looking Ahead: Adding Seats to the Table to Diversify the Agricultural Workforce

From the field to the fork, we need diversity in agriculture.  I’m proud to say that here at USDA, we are doing our part to make sure young people have access to the wide array of opportunities available. Over the next five years, we can expect to see an average of 57,900 jobs become available annually in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment. However, only 35,400 students will graduate with the specialized degrees and expertise to fill those jobs, leaving 39 percent to be filled by young people with talent in other areas. We need to expand the talent pool and change the dialogue to show agriculture as an attractive, meaningful career path.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion with leaders from industry, higher education, and the nonprofit sector to share best practices on how we can come together to grow a diverse pipeline of talent for U.S. agriculture. Together, we were able to discuss what’s working, and where we can improve to create opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to ultimately strengthen the ag workforce.

Future of Agriculture: Creating Change from the Ground Up

The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture - women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need.

That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed.

USDA Creates On-site Application Acceptance Program to Recruit Highly Talented and Diverse Candidates

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is driven to recruit and hire new and diverse talent into our workforce. Recently, our agency participated in USDA’s innovative on-site application acceptance events targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), 1994 Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities and veterans as part of USDA’s overall recruitment strategy in which all were welcome to apply. USDA’s on-site application acceptance events use the federal Pathways Programs, which offer students and recent graduates a path to federal careers.

We kicked off these events early this year during the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Ga., the world’s largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry tradeshow. IPPE drew hundreds of students for its career fair from about 30 colleges and universities from around the country, including numerous HBCUs and HSIs. Many students came to AMS’ on-site application acceptance event at the nearby Sam Nunn Federal Building, where we received dozens of applications from a highly diverse and talented group of students. Among the applicants that AMS hired at that event was Marcus Peebles, who is now a Procurement Technician with our Commodity Procurement Program. We also learned from this experience and made several process improvements for our next on-site application acceptance event, which occurred at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) student conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

Training Empowers Ag Boards to Recruit the Next Generation of Farmers

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle.

Hearing First-Hand How Diversity Matters

The men and women who own and operate our country’s farms and ranches are increasingly diverse. In fact, according to USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, all categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012.  The number of farms operated by Hispanics has increased by 21 percent in just five years.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees all 22 industry-funded commodity research and promotion (R&P) programs.  Led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, these programs provide a framework for 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.

Representing the Faces of Agriculture through Research and Promotion Board Diversity

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.

Diversity of Thought Brings Success

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.

Forest Service Reaches Latinos through Legacy Program

Roughly a decade ago, Tamberly Conway impulsively agreed to leave Key West, Fla., with a friend to serve as crew members on a 47-foot sailboat with a captain they barely knew. But somewhere between Key West and Guatemala, she began reevaluating her decision.

They got off the boat in Guatemala and spent the next year absorbing the Latino culture and Spanish language. She turned that unexpected experience into helping the U.S. Forest Service reach out to the Latino community. Along with her multiple degrees in natural resources, Conway connects Latinos to the natural world around them through such programs as Latino Legacy.

Diversity Program Students Share Their Views From the USDA Outlook Forum

Last week, 22 college students were given the opportunity to attend the USDA Outlook Forum to learn about agribusiness, the latest research, future trends, and policy in contemporary agriculture. The students were part of USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Diversity Program, which was launched by the Office of the Chief Economist and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2007 to help provide students with a unique insight into their agricultural studies.