WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2016 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced earlier today her plans to depart the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the end of February 2016. To ensure continuity of operations upon her departure, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that Michael Scuse, the current Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS), will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary Vilsack also directed Alexis Taylor, the current Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, to assume the duties of Under Secretary for FFAS.
Secretary Vilsack made the following statement on the departure of Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden:
"Krysta Harden shares a special bond with rural America and agriculture that is deeply rooted in her family history and personal values, embodying the mission of USDA in a genuine way. I greatly appreciate her many years of service to the Obama Administration and to USDA. But more than anything, I am grateful for her friendship, sound judgement and leadership as a key member of my team since 2009.
"When I asked her to serve as Deputy Secretary, Krysta shared her priorities with me, which included strengthening our civil rights record and the inclusivity of USDA programs and policies, expanding opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers, and emboldening rural communities with the resources they need to thrive. Looking back, she has delivered decisively on each one.
"As a farmer's daughter from rural Georgia, Krysta used her position as Deputy Secretary to explain the opportunities and challenges facing U.S. agriculture. To address the graying nature of farming, Krysta led the development of USDA's Beginning Farmers website, an interactive tool to help anyone develop a career in farming and ranching. Understanding that women make up about 50 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide, yet own and operate a disproportionately small number of farms in the United States, Krysta founded the Department's Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network to support and engage women across all areas of agriculture and to foster professional partnerships between women with shared goals. Less than a year later, the Women in Ag Network has more than 1,000 members, and growing. Finally, faced with a challenging legislative climate in Washington, Krysta helped to lead USDA's efforts in collaboration with Congress to see the 2014 Farm Bill through to completion and, eventually, implementation. In fact, many have called the 2014 Farm Bill the best-implemented Farm Bill in history, and I believe that is due in large part to Krysta's leadership.
"Her tenure at USDA first as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, then as my Chief of Staff, and finally as Deputy Secretary, underscore her unique talents as a leader and a champion for rural America. I speak for thousands of colleagues across the USDA, the federal family, and our nation's food and agriculture sector, when I say she will be missed. I appreciate her service and wish her well in her future endeavors."
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