Krysta Harden 2015-02-23 23:26:06
From a young age, I knew that in order to feed the world, we needed people who love the land to take care of it. I grew up on a peanut farm in southwest Georgia, where I learned about the value of hard work and dedication to the land. From working with the soybean industry to being named CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts and now in my role as USDA’s deputy secretary, I have dedicated my career to my twin passions: agriculture and conservation. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers have always cared deeply about the land, but farming as a profession has evolved tremendously over the past 50 years. Technology and innovation have paved the path for a successful agricultural sector, but more work remains. USDA continues to support all farmers and ranchers by helping them grow their businesses, promoting a strong rural economy and fostering economic growth worldwide. But at the end of the day, the most critical question of all becomes “Who will farm next?” As deputy secretary, I have made it my mission to give those interested in working the land any and all opportunities to do so. But in order to feed nine billion people by 2050, we must secure the next generation of farmers and ranchers and give them the tools they need to succeed. For example, new farmers often cite access to land and capital as their biggest barriers, so USDA has created a one-stop shop for all new farmer and rancher resources: www.usda.gov/newfarmers. This website is aimed at providing those who are just getting started with a breakdown of USDA programs and new farmer stories that showcase the varying opportunities that exist on the farm or ranch. The face of agriculture is more diverse than ever before, and our programs and policies must reflect this change.We are seeing an increasing number of women, veterans, minorities, and immigrants choosing agriculture as their profession. From the field to research labs to board rooms across the country, there are more opportunities in agriculture than ever before. It has been estimated that it will take as much innovation in agriculture in the next 40 years as in the preceding 10,000 years to be able to feed a growing population. USDA researchers are hard at work in locations across the country developing new ideas and making data available to scientists all over the world in the hopes of expanding our understanding and increasing our efficiency in food production. This past summer, I saw firsthand how the Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development (FEED) project, an activity supported by USDA’s Food for Progress program, has boosted milk production through better feeding practices and farm management in Africa. Thanks to the FEED project, a young woman is running a largely self-sustaining farm that is employing members of the local community. A thriving agricultural economy plays a crucial role in food security. But as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population, it is equally critical that we deal with the impacts of a changing climate. We have seen firsthand the impact of increasingly severe droughts, floods, extreme temperatures, and other dramatic weather patterns. As the impacts of climate change become more prevalent, farmers and ranchers around the world will need new tools and techniques to protect their bottom line and ensure global food security. That is why in September, the United States, along with several of its partner countries at the United Nations, launched the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, an effort aimed at charting a more sustainable path to worldwide food security. In the United States, farmers and ranchers are working to mitigate the impacts of climate change by employing cutting-edge conservation practices on their operations. The 2014 Farm Bill provides more conservation funding than ever before. Going beyond the traditional scope of government support, initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program are bringing new partners to the table when it comes to protecting our most precious natural resource: the land. Our farmers and ranchers are incredible environmental stewards, and we must continue this legacy for generations to come. The future of agriculture is bright, but it is up to all of us to recruit a new and diverse set of farmers and ranchers in order to feed our growing world population. Krysta Harden was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of USDA on August 12, 2013, after unanimous U.S. Senate confirmation. She helps lead the department, focusing on strengthening the American agricultural economy and revitalizing rural communities. Top photo Fotolotti | Dreamstime. Mid-page photo courtesy of USDA.
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