Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced on Jan. 21 that she plans to leave the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Today is bittersweet for me as I announce my decision to step down as deputy secretary at the end of February,” Harden said in a media statement.
“I am proud of what our department has accomplished since 2009 to bring economic opportunity that will help rural America thrive for generations to come,” she said. “We have worked hard over the past seven years to make USDA truly the people's department, as demonstrated by this administration's commitment to bring young people, women, veterans and equal access to the forefront of food and agriculture policy.”
"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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a media statement.
"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,” Vilsack said. “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.”
The American Soybean Association praised Harden for her service to the nation’s farmers.
“Krysta Harden is the kind of public servant that comes along only too rarely,” said Richard Wilkins, president of ASA and a farmer from Greenwood, Del., in a media statement. “As deputy secretary, she has been a visionary leader and a willing partner for soybean farmers across the country as we work to contend with the changing realities of our market, both here in the U.S. and overseas. We are, of course, sad to see her go, but happy to know that she will continue her service and her outstanding advocacy for farmers and rural Americans wherever she goes. We thank her and wish her nothing but the best of luck.”
The National Corn Growers Association president agreed that today's announcement is bittersweet.
“On a personal note, I appreciate Deputy Secretary Harden for her no-nonsense, common-sense leadership," said Chip Bowling, NCGA president and Newburg, Maryland, farmer. "At a time when too many people in Washington seem to be shouting at one another, she knows how to build bridges and put everyone at ease. Talking to Krysta feels like sitting down with a lifelong friend. She is a farm girl at heart, and USDA was a better place because of it. I will miss her, and I wish her the best."
Harden thanked President Obama and Vilsack for the opportunity to be part of the team at USDA.
“My work at USDA on behalf of our farmers, ranchers, producers and rural communities has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” Harden said.
Michael Scuse, the current Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture upon Harden’s departure. Alexis Taylor, the current Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, will assume the duties of Under Secretary for FFAS.