Department of Agriculture
Council Member: Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Council Designee: Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
Krysta Harden was sworn in as the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on August 12, 2013 after unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Deputy Secretary Harden helps lead the department, working to strengthen the American agricultural economy and revitalize our nation's rural communities.
Raised in Camilla, Ga., Harden comes from three generations of southwest Georgia farmers with a proud farming heritage that dates back to the 1800s. As a daughter of farmers, she understands the changing face of agriculture over time, and the need for commonsense policies and programs that create and expand opportunities in rural America. In her role as Deputy Secretary, Harden builds on Secretary Vilsack's leadership to support a diverse and abundant agriculture sector, expand new markets for agriculture at home and abroad, further strengthen conservation of our nation's resources, and promote a thriving biobased economy. Harden's highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture - women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need.
Since 2009, Harden has held USDA leadership positions as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations and Chief of Staff to the Secretary. Harden was instrumental in implementing programs under the 2008 Farm Bill that have resulted in record investments in America's farms and rural communities, record agricultural exports and record conservation efforts. Harden worked to pass and implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, ensuring the availability of nutrition assistance to struggling Americans. A chief advocate of conservation, Harden continues leading efforts to build close stakeholder relationships with an ultimate goal of enhancing land and water conservation, improving economic opportunities through increased outdoor activities and expanding modern forest management.
From 2004 to 2009, Harden was the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Conservation Districts. She worked with the American Soybean Association as Senior Vice President of Gordley Associates from 1993 to 2004 where she concentrated on conservation and renewable energy issues. She also served 12 years on Capitol Hill, as Staff Director for the House subcommittee on Peanuts and Tobacco and as Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for former Congressman Charles Hatcher.
Harden received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Georgia.