Alison Kosakowski - Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets 802-272-4537
Montpelier, VT – Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, Chuck Ross, has been named President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.
Ross was named President at the NASDA annual meeting, held in North Carolina in September. He succeeds Steve Troxler, Commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
“NASDA represents the voice of the states in agriculture. State agriculture agencies are on the front lines with farmers and ranchers, every day, working hand-in-hand to tackle the issues facing agriculture in the United States,” Ross said. “We have a very unique and important vantage point.”
“Collectively, the state agencies possess a tremendous amount of knowledge and the ability to make a real difference,” he continued. “I am looking forward to leveraging the insights and abilities of my colleagues from across the nation to advance the issues facing farmers today – particularly, the Farm Bill, and food safety.”
In his acceptance speech at the 2013 annual conference, Ross highlighted his top priorities for the year ahead. Food safety and the Farm Bill topped his list. He also emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between stakeholders within the Ag community.
“We need to end the ‘Food Fight’ – the in-fighting that takes place between organic vs. non-organic, big vs. small, and any other number of divisions. Less than 2 percent of the American population is involved in growing the food and fiber the rest of us depend upon. It makes no sense for that 2 percent to waste time cutting each other down.”
Ross also emphasized the importance of increasing “Ag Literacy,” which he defines as a basic understanding of how food is produced, where it comes from, and why it matters.
“The average American does not know a farmer, does not understand agriculture, and frankly may not even care. We need to change that. ‘Ag literacy’ is about creating those connections from ‘farm to table’ and helping consumers see how the work farmers do feeds us all. Our grandparents’ generation knew farmers and understood agriculture. We need to instill that appreciation and understanding in future generations.”
As Secretary of Agriculture in Vermont, Ross brings a unique perspective to NASDA.
“Vermont’s community-based agriculture is unique. Relative to the rest of the country, agriculture in Vermont happens on a small scale, and serves the communities in which it exists. We have so much to be proud of – from our Working Lands enterprises, to our pioneering work with Farm to School, to our emerging value-added sector, and of course our robust dairy and maple industries. I look forward to sharing our successes and best practices with my colleagues from across the nation, and learning from them, as well.”
Since it is customary for the NASDA President to host the annual conference, agriculture secretaries, commissioners, and directors from across the nation will gather together in Vermont next September for the 2014 annual meeting.
“I am looking forward to welcoming my colleagues to Vermont next year. There is no place in the world more picturesque than Vermont in autumn,” he said.
Chuck Ross was appointed as the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets by Governor Peter Shumlin and took office in January of 2011. Prior to his current role as Secretary, he served as U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s State Director for 16 years. Before joining Leahy’s staff, Ross was a farmer and legislator from Hinesburg, Vermont.
Born in Burlington, Vermont, he graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Geography in 1978 and from the University of Washington with an M.A. in Geography in 1982. He resides in Hinesburg.