The Secretary of Agriculture is a key position in the United States government that oversees the nation’s agricultural sector. The incumbent of this role is responsible for overseeing America’s agricultural research, providing nutritional assistance, and setting standards for food safety. This role is charged with the mission to ensure a secure and safe food supply, support sustainable natural resources, and foster scientific innovation from the public and private sector. Moreover, the Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for providing agricultural income and supporting agricultural exports, as well as promoting hunger relief and agricultural education.
The Secretary of Agriculture is the public face of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), an agency responsible for helping the country’s farmers, producers, and rural businesses to grow and succeed. The USDA is also responsible for food safety, nutrition assistance, agricultural trade, research, forest management, and economic development. Through their different programs, the USDA works to spur equal opportunities across rural and urban communities and to promote environmentally sustainable activities.
In recent years, the role of the Secretary of Agriculture has grown to include other key policies. These include ensuring agricultural sustainability, protecting against animal diseases, climate risk management, developing renewable energy through sustainable farming practices, and promoting greater economic security for farmers and rural businesses.
In addition to these policy-related roles, the Secretary of Agriculture also represents the US President in promoting openness to foreign agriculture and food resources. He or she also serves as the primary agricultural advisor to the President, as well as to other federal, state, and local officials. The Secretary is responsible for appointing the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service as well as a variety of other positions within the USDA.
How the Secretary is Chosen
The Secretary of Agriculture is chosen by the President of the United States with consultation from the Vice-President and the Cabinet. Generally, this position is held by someone with extensive experience in the food, agricultural, or environmental sectors. The choice must then be unanimously confirmed by the US Senate.
Current Secretary of Agriculture
The 58th US Secretary of Agriculture is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who was sworn into office on April 25, 2017. He serves as the US Secretary of Agriculture with the intention of “providing Americans with accurate, science-based information that’s good for producers, consumers, and commerce.” As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue has highlighted the need for new, more sustainable farming techniques and the development of rural communities.
Role of Agricultural Extension Services
The Secretary of Agriculture also oversees the federal extension services. These services provide various forms of free or low-cost instructional programs and materials to farmers, ranchers, and local agricultural communities on how to grow and manage crops, livestock, and natural resources. These servicees cover topics such as nutrition, food safety, risk management, food product development, and other agricultural-related topics.
Education, Outreach, and Advocacy
The US Secretary of Agriculture is also responsible for leading educational initiatives and supporting outreach efforts to the public. The Secretary champions agriculture in both the public and private sectors in order to increase the knowledge and appreciation for the nation’s farmers and ranchers and their vital role in the US food system. The Secretary also fosters public dialogue about the national importance of farmers and the food supply.
Support for International Agreements
The Secretary plays an important role in supporting US agricultural interests abroad. He or she works to strengthen international relationships and trade agreements that ensure US agricultural producers are able to export their products to far-reaching markets. As the leader of the USDA, the Secretary also helps to ensure that agricultural products are compliant with the terms of international trade agreements.
Cooperation with Industry
The Secretary works to strengthen the connections between the public and private sectors. Through encouraging collaboration between industry, farmers, and agricultural scientists, the Secretary of Agriculture helps to foster innovative and efficient ideas while maintaining the highest standards of quality and production within the agricultural industry.