CDFA Secretary Karen Ross took part in an event last week announcing a new agreement that would welcome more minority students into ag policy careers.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture signed the memorandum with a nonprofit committed to the pursuit known as MANRRS (pronounced "manners"), for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.

Ross said CDFA must be “intentional” about recruitment in order to “have all the best minds possible.”

She acknowledged the complexity of issues the department tends to deal with and the “lack of real agricultural knowledge” at other state agencies, like the Air Resources Board and State Water Board. Expanding the diversity and expertise at CDFA will help to break down those silos and hopefully influence the private sector as well, she said.

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Diversity could help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Central Valley, she argued. Ross expressed a need to communicate to rural communities of color in culturally appropriate ways about family gatherings.

“How do we help folks understand that it seems innocent to do a big birthday party or Sunday afternoon barbecue?” she said.