After doing her thesis on elements of the Department of Agriculture, or USDA, MSU alumna Rebecca Mino knew she wanted to hear, in person, what the USDA was all about.
On Monday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Kathleen Merrigan spoke to students, faculty and community members about the importance of agriculture and the opportunities in the agriculture industry. On Monday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Kathleen Merrigan spoke to students, faculty and community members about the importance of agriculture and the opportunities in the agriculture industry.
“This is a great way for people to learn what is going on in the broader community outside of MSU,” Mino said. “Hopefully, students, faculty and staff take advantage (of this opportunity).”
MSU is the 32nd college campus Merrigan has visited since she took office in April 2009, and said through her visits she talks to many students and community members about many subjects such as the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. The initiative aims to enhance local and regional food systems and encourages consumers to discover where the food they eat is coming from, Merrigan said.
“Hopefully, (people) will learn about what the USDA does and generally about agriculture,” Merrigan said. “I know I came to a very knowledgeable school about agriculture, but I also know in other important land-grant (universities), there is room to learn more.”
Doug Buhler, MSU’s interim dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said being able to bring high-profile individuals to MSU only benefits the community and gives students the opportunity to interact with them.
“It’s always good to keep close contact with our federal partners,” Buhler said. “Anytime we have visits from high-ranking officials, it’s good for us because they can understand better what’s going on at the university and what’s going on in the state.”
Although the event was hosted by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Merrigan spoke during the meeting about the opportunities at the USDA that extend outside of the agriculture industry.
“We hire accountants, artists and linguists,” Merrigan said. “Any job function you can think of — we hire for that.”
Merrigan also spoke about how the agriculture industry has changed throughout the last couple of decades because of increasingly progressive technological advancements.
Merrigan said in 1930, an average cow produced about 4,500 pounds of milk each year, but in 2012, that number has escalated to more than 21,000 pounds each year per cow. She said the increasing productivity has impacted not only the country but the world as well.
“Agriculture is an export powerhouse,” Merrigan said. “We’ve been able to export (the food) and help feed the world.”
Agribusiness management senior Tim Vinke said his family owns a farm and he attended the event to get more background information on the organization that sets policies and regulations for farms such as his family’s.
“(The USDA) is a huge part of our industry,” Vinke said. “I wasn’t able to get this (kind) background information (before), but to have it this close is a great opportunity.”