Vermont's Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, was named President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture last month during the NASDA annual meeting in North Carolina.
He succeeds Steve Troxler, Commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. NASDA represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.
"Collectively, the state agencies possess a tremendous amount of knowledge and the ability to make a real difference," Ross noted in his acceptance speech. "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 addition to top priorities of food safety and the farm bill, Ross 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% 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% 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," Ross 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, Vt.