USDA accomplished much in 2017

Late last month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue shared his perspective on how the agency he heads had fared in 2017. He said it was a year during which the hard-driving team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture achieved a great deal.

“Unlike any other federal department, USDA touches the lives of each individual in this country every day,” Perdue said. “In the wake of hurricanes, forest fires, and everything in between, the dedicated professionals at USDA worked tirelessly to serve the American people. As we look ahead to 2018, USDA will continue our efforts to be the most effective, efficient and customer-focused department in the entire federal government.”

Here are some of the USDA’s accomplishments highlighted by the secretary:

• Trade – Facilitating the sale of American agricultural products internationally was a top agenda item at the USDA in 2017. Important progress took place. U.S. beef sales are now possible in China after a 13-year hiatus. U.S. produced rice also can now be sold in that country. South Korea’s ban on the import of U.S. poultry was lifted. Overall the goal was opening ever more markets to U.S. agricultural producers.

• Reorganization – A major restructuring of the department took place in 2017. This included the creation of a new top leadership position – undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. Modernization of information technology, facilities and support services also took place. Streamlining internal processes so the department could better serve its many stakeholders and constituencies was given priority attention. The reorganization sought to make certain that customer service was better coordinated than it had been in the past.

• Reduced regulation – USDA sought to make certain that proposed new regulatory requirements were truly necessary and began revisiting existing requirements to ensure that they were not inappropriately burdensome on producers.

• Attracting young folks to agriculture – Recognizing that having a high-quality workforce is critical to the future of agriculture in the United States, USDA partnered with National FFA to help attract more young folks to this economic sector. Additionally, new arrangements were developed to improve mentorship relationships for people considering careers in agriculture or new to the farm sector.

The Times-Republican applauds Perdue and his team at USDA for developing a game plan for this crucial department that has the right priorities. As their new focus proceeds, we expect 2018 to be a year filled with even more successes. Given the importance of agriculture in the Hawkeye State, that’s very positive news.