Deputy Secretary Harden to leave USDA
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced that she plans to leave her position at the end of February.
Michael Scuse, the undersecretaray for farm and foreign agricultural services, will serve as acting deputy secretary and that Alexis Taylor, the current deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign Agricultural Services, will assume the duties of undersecretary.
Harden did not give a reason for leaving, but said, “Today is bittersweet for me as I announce my decision to step down as deputy secretary at the end of February.”
She has told staff and friends that she will not say what job she will take next due to ethical considerations, a source close to Harden told The Hagstrom Report.
“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. And although I will not be part of the many great and transformational things USDA will accomplish over the next year, I am more committed than ever to USDA’s mission. 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.”
Harden noted that she began her service in the Obama administration in the Office of Congressional Relations, “where our team helped shepherd two of the most significant pieces of legislation in our time here — the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and securing funding from Congress to help resolve outstanding claims of discrimination by African American farmers.”
“As the secretary’s chief of staff,” she continued, “I had the pleasure of working with many bright and talented USDA employees who have dedicated their lives to helping rural America thrive. From college interns to seasoned professionals with 60 years of federal service, our employees are resilient and creative, finding ways to do more with less, year after year. Because of their hard work and dedication, the next generation will inherit a rural America that is stronger, more diverse, and more capable of rising to the challenges of the next decade.”
“As deputy secretary,” she added, “I am proud to lead the implementation of the 2014 farm bill. The farm bill, like USDA, impacts every American and millions of people around the world, and I was grateful to play a small part in helping to achieve important, meaningful reforms for the future of agriculture through its implementation.
“More than anything, I am grateful to have traveled across the country to visit with young people, women, and veterans, interested in farming and ranching. I take comfort in knowing today’s USDA is there to support their dreams.”
Harden also thanked President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “for the opportunity to be part of their team.”
“As the proud daughter of farmers and someone who cherishes rural values, I couldn’t have served for anyone more genuine and committed to making a difference than Secretary Vilsack,” she said. “My work at USDA on behalf of our farmers, ranchers, producers and rural communities has been the greatest honor of my professional life.”
Harden succeed Kathleen Merrigan as deputy secretary on August 12, 2013. Harden was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
“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,” Vilsack said.
“I greatly appreciate her many years of service to the Obama administration and to USDA. But more than anything, I am grateful for her friendship, sound judgment and leadership as a key member of my team since 2009.”
Vilsack continued, “When I asked her to serve as deputy secretary, Krysta shared her priorities with me, which included strengthening our civil rights record and the inclusivity of USDA programs and policies, expanding opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers, and emboldening rural communities with the resources they need to thrive. Looking back, she has delivered decisively on each one.
“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.
“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. In fact, many have called the 2014 farm bill the best-implemented farm bill in history, and I believe that is due in large part to Krysta’s leadership.
“Her tenure at USDA first as assistant secretary for congressional relations, then as my chief of staff, and finally as deputy secretary, underscore her unique talents as a leader and a champion for rural America,” Vilsack said.
“I speak for thousands of colleagues across the USDA, the federal family, and our nation’s food and agriculture sector, when I say she will be missed. I appreciate her service and wish her well in her future endeavors.”
–The Hagstrom Report