INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Ted McKinney, newly confirmed USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, is known for his passion for agriculture and has already visited dozens of countries in his agricultural-based career.
His newest appointment is singularly focused, reported USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. McKinney is to “wake up every morning seeking to sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets.”
McKinney’s experience is also appreciated by Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and his former superior as ISDA’s director of agriculture. “Ted McKinney brings decades of experience and expertise to his new role at USDA. We are proud and excited for this opportunity for Ted. He has been a tireless advocate for Hoosier agriculture in his exemplary service to our state, and I know he’ll be an effective voice promoting American agriculture around the world.”
McKinney’s credits a multitude of factor and experiences for achieving his new position. “You can never go wrong being raised on a farm and in production ag,” he said. “My faith growing up in church is very important. I can’t miss mentioning 4-H and FFA and the leadership and networking those programs provided. Absolutely my job experience at Dow AgroSciences, Elanco and the capstone of immersing myself into the ISDA government position since 2014 have contributed to this new opportunity. I’m grateful for the divine hand guiding me in this. How do you say no if you have a servant’s heart and God-given talents to use?”
Global travel opportunities through the years in the name of agriculture further prepared McKinney for the time he will spend traveling as undersecretary.
“I’m grateful the overseas travel is not brand new for me. A priority is to immerse myself in furthering U.S. plant science and livestock production,” he said. “In many ways we want to do more, better and faster. My new full-time job is to rely on what I’ve learned in different settings with different products. As we do that, it’s very important to seek first to understand and inherently continue to build trust with trading partners.”
McKinney further reaffirmed “the quality and quantity of U.S. goods and our logistics systems that gets it there with efficiency solidifies we are a trustworthy source. We have 93 foreign ag services with a physical presence operating in 171 countries. I’ll be playing catch up and point person and look forward to continuing the trust and reliability already established.”
Being a team player and partner with Indiana and U.S. ag organizations, the U.S. Trade Representative and Departments of State and Commerce are top emphases for McKinney. He plans to rely on the networks he’s established during the last 35 years including the American Soybean Assoc., Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers, and food and crop organizations across the United States, and his new connections for collaboration.
“Of course, I’m going to focus on what Secretary Perdue and Jason Hafemeister, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service associate administrator, say to do,” said McKinney. “We have to finish what we’ve started with NAFTA. The U.S. and Canada must get NAFTA correct and I think it’s on track. We must focus on China and its great and growing needs for protein, Japan seeking a new bilateral agreement, and Taiwan, our southeast outstanding trade partner. All these countries and more are very much in play. Globally we are judged how we play with our neighbors.”
Producers, farmers, private and corporate agribusiness must always look at their work with a global perspective, said McKinney.
“Our goal is if farmers grow it, we’re going to sell it. Yields are rising and we want to encourage farmers to produce great crops and livestock,” he said. “But it’s crucial they raise their voices locally, statewide and nationally. Whether it’s about taking their big equipment down the road, blowing dust across the fields, or educating their neighbors about what they do, these farmers must be vocal. I’m encouraged by Indiana Team Farm Bureau and President Randy Kron raising their voices during the 2017 legislative session. It resulted in road and infrastructure funding.”
McKinney said Indiana ag and its players also delivered in June a “terrific strategic plan for agriculture. It is not just ISDA’s plan; it’s all our commodity groups and producers document to embrace.”
McKinney is asking faith-based people to pray for him and his family. He also wants people’s input by call, letter, email or visit. He doesn’t want to get caught in a “cocoon.” He also wants to enhance his collection of farm family photos to post in his and his team’s offices as a reminder of whom they represent.
McKinney is ready for his next step. “This is Indiana’s time for ag. This is the U.S.’s time for ag. I’m honored to be a part of both and to be grounded in the world of agriculture.”