Do right and feed everyone (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Sean McKeon is the state executive director with Delaware Farm Service Agency.)
It is an interesting time to be involved in the agriculture industry, especially as one charged with helping to oversee USDA programs that are designed to “promote, build and sustain family farms in support of a thriving agriculture economy.”
Interesting to say the least.
My name is Sean McKeon, and I am the state executive director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Delaware.
Prior to this appointment, I was the director of communication and community relations at Mountaire Farms here in Delaware.
One thing I grasped early on in my role at Mountaire was the critical relationship between the various parties involved in farming on Delmarva; the producer, the integrator, and the myriad associated businesses and entities that help support the agriculture economy in our area.
As the SED in Delaware I am closely involved with agriculture partners in the public sector; our sister agencies at NRCS and Rural Development, both state and federal officials, and our universities, all of which are critical in helping to sustain the business and way of life of farming in our state and region.
In the aggregate private sector experience has both pros and cons, it can only be effectively applied, however, when it understands the culture in which it operates and values the expertise of our state’s farmers and the many professionals who administer the programs of the USDA.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, articulates this in four principles that will guide his tenure at USDA, and ultimately the work of USDA agencies.
First, maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor.
It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper.
Second, prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers.
They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity.
Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established.
Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist.
And fourth, always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land.
And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe.
Secretary Perdue cautions that these principles can only be achieved when it is understood that as an industry, agriculture cuts across political boundaries.
The enormity and diversity of America’s agricultural sector requires working with both sides of the aisle so that “partisanship doesn’t get in the way of good solutions for American farmers, ranchers, and consumers.”
At FSA, we are committed to those same principles and guided by the USDA’s long-standing core values of, strong ethics; customer service; team work; inclusive decision-making; and fiscal responsibility.
My role as the SED is to work alongside my colleagues at FSA, and together with our many stakeholder partners, help Delaware farmers develop, grow and sustain their farming businesses.
It is, as I said, an interesting time to be involved in agriculture in our nation. It is a time wrought with difficulties and complicated issues of enormous consequence, the outcome of which will determine farming’s future for generations to come.
Yet, the very beginnings of the Farm Service Agency find their roots in the depths of the Great Depression, a time in American history of unprecedented challenge.
But all great challenges hold the promise of great opportunities.
The serious issues facing our country, and American farming, during the Depression, yielded opportunities that would eventually produce the world’s greatest agriculture industry, one that provides high-quality, safe and reliable agricultural products for people all over the world.
It was a concerted effort, one that relied on the creative genius of the American people working in concert with stake-holder groups both private and public.
Today, as the industry faces challenges no less daunting, it is wise to remember the words of Secretary Perdue’s father, who said, “We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.”
Hopefully, that is something we all can agree on.
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