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Krysta Harden

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Katina Hanson

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from USDA’s own Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs at the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  In addition to her duties as Chief of Staff, Katina led the successful implementation of the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), a multimillion dollar investment to make renewable fuels more available to consumers across the country. She is also an active member of USDA’s Women in Ag network, serving as co-chair of the FSA chapter and on the USDA Women in Ag Executive Committee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Ecology & Management from Texas A&M University and a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Katina grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, living on a sailboat until she was 6 and later in a house located between two bayous.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Alexis Taylor

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading our industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we sit down with Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor to discuss USDA’s Women in Agriculture mentorship network and her personal commitment to making sure the next generation of women is educated, encouraged and empowered to take on the world’s growing food, fuel and fiber needs.

An Army veteran and native Iowan, Deputy Under Secretary Taylor, who assumed the duties of the FFAS Under Secretary in February, leads the Department’s charge in international and domestic farm policy including overseeing commodity, credit, conservation, disaster, and emergency assistance programs that help improve the stability and strength of the agricultural economy. She works to build new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the global marketplace, and leads the Department’s Women in Agriculture mentorship network.

2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum: How Land Tenure & Transition Can Transform the Rural Economy

Focus on land tenure and transition issues has grown considerably in recent years, especially its impact on new and beginning farmers. "New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," said Deputy Secretary Harden.  "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and increasing, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy."  As the age of the principal farm operator continues to increase, the focus on this issue intensifies. Land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land for new and beginning farmers will be among the topics discussed in a session at USDA’s 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum this month.

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.

Counting All Farmers - Capturing the Many Faces of Agriculture in the 2017 Census

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture is still two years away but, at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we work hard to continually improve the data we collect. The agriculture census conducted every five years is the one time we collect demographic information on today’s farmers and ranchers.

The 2012 Census found that 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms are run by a woman, and women make up 30 percent of all farmers when up to three operators per farm are included. Similarly, 25 percent of farmers were beginning farmers (ten years or less on their current farm) in 2012. But, as we get ready for the next census, we want to make sure that our data fully capture the role of women farmers and beginning farmers in agriculture today.

Building the Bench for Agriculture in 2015 and Beyond

No matter where you're from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is here for you. It has been an exciting year at USDA, filled with growth and opportunity.  This year, I have traveled the country and the world to meet with farmers, ranchers and agriculture leaders who love the land and want to help the next generation succeed.

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to share the top five things USDA has done this year to build a more diverse future for agriculture:

Working Together to Address Global Food Insecurity

As a daughter of farmers, and as someone who has spent her career working on behalf of farmers, one of the things I care most deeply about is the future of agriculture –  both in the United States and around the world. That is why one of my highest priorities at USDA has been to help develop the next generation of farmers, ensuring that women, young people, and others have access to the programs and support they need to farm successfully. 

As Deputy Secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa, Central and South America. I’ve met many inspirational farmers from around the world, and while the languages we speak, the crops we grow, and the production methods we use may differ, one thing rings true in every conversation: we share the same passions and the same challenges in feeding a growing world population.

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses.

Puerto Rico Colabora con USDA para Fortalecer los Sistemas de Alimentos Locales

El estado libre asociado de Puerto Rico tiene solamente 100 millas de largo por 35 millas de ancho. La pequeña isla está llena de maravillas naturales, rica en cultura y abundante en agricultura. Aun así pocos se dan cuenta que gran parte de los alimentos consumidos por los residentes y visitantes provienen de otros lugares. A principios de este mes, la Dr. Myrna Comas Pagán, Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico, hizo una visita al Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés). Ella llego para explorar maneras en cual mi agencia, el Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), y otras agencias en el departamento pueden ayudar a mejorar el sistema alimenticio local de la isla.

Aunque el valor de la producción agrícola de Puerto Rico ha llegado a $919 millones, un incremento de 14 por ciento en los últimos dos años, falta un sistema de distribución de productos locales en la isla. El sector local de agricultura apoya 6,500 trabajos pero aun ay mucho por hacer. Puerto Rico importa alimentos de 52 países diferentes que pueden dejar el sistema alimenticio vulnerable. Recientemente hubo un evento en cual un barco de carga con destino a Puerto Rico se extravió durante una tormenta de huracán, costándole las vidas a la tripulación, pero también dando por resultado la pérdida de 70 contenedores de alimentos.