Vilsack calls for more diversity in agriculture

By Sara Wyant

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LOUISVILLE, KY - October, 30, 2014 - Surrounded by a sea of blue jackets, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasized that “the future is bright for American Agriculture” as he addressed the 87th National FFA Convention today. And while the youth leadership and development organization, with over 600,000 members, represents incredible diversity in terms of gender and geography, Vilsack called for other farm organizations to follow suit.

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“This generation of Americans has embraced diversity in a far greater way than previous generations. There needs to be an embracing of the notion of diversity within agriculture….the diversity of size, diversity of production method, diversity of crop selection, and diversity of operators,” Vilsack said during a press conference after his speech.

“When I meet with FFA leadership, about 50 percent are young women- in this case two-thirds,” he added, while pointing to the two female Iowa FFA members and one male FFA member who stood by his side. “But that does not necessarily translate when I meet with boards and commissions of ag groups. It's mostly people who look like me.

“The future of agriculture is not being as exclusive as that. The future of agriculture is a picture that looks more like this. So it's going to be important for FFA leadership …..to continue to be interested and to a certain extent to demand a seat at the table.

Vilsack emphasized that it should not be “just a seat so you can say that you have a woman member,” but to say this is a seat where “you feel welcome.”

Editor's note: USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently hosted a White House Rural Council discussion focused on opening doors for women in agriculture. Read her blog here.

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