USDA is sending a help-wanted alert to attract more diversity among the members of its seven agricultural trade advisory committees. In particular, the agency is looking for agriculturally employed people who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities.

Interested farmers or people employed by an agricultural firm should have some interest and knowledge of agricultural trade.

USDA stated that this move to attract more diversity is directly related to the changing demographics of farmers. The recent census reported 30% more women are principal farm operators and the count of Hispanic operators grew 10%. “We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and those of USDA, more effective,” USDA reported.

USDA’s seven committees include the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee and six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATACs). The six ATACs are:

  • Animals and animal products
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains, feed, oilseeds and planting seeds
  • Processed foods
  • Sweeteners and sweetener products
  • Tobacco, cotton and peanuts

USDA reported that at a time when the economy is trying to rebound from a serious recession, having a voice on one of these committees can make a significant impact on government decisions affecting the economy. That’s because agricultural trade plays an important role in the health of the nation’s economy. U.S. agricultural exports have consistently contributed to the positive U.S. trade balance, creating jobs and boosting economic growth. In fiscal 2011, U.S. agricultural exports were forecast to reach a record $137 billion, which supported more than one million jobs in America this year.

When serving on one of the seven committees, a farm member receives briefings by the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative. The member is asked for his/her views on a wide range of agricultural trade issues. For example, former members of these committees served as the U.S. government’s sounding boards when negotiations began on the South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade agreements currently before Congress. When fully implemented, those three agreements have the potential to add more than $2 billion per year to our exports and support job creation here at home.

More information about submitting an application is available on the Foreign Agricultural Service website (http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/apac-atacs/advisorycommittees.asp). Questions may be directed to Steffon Brown at 202/720-6219 or email Steffon.Brown@fas.usda.gov.