By Stan Maddux
INDIANAPOLIS — She’s a fourth generation farmer living on the same land she grew up on.
Julia Wickard has returned to a high ranking USDA position she once held previously for eight-years.
She was recently appointed by the Biden Administration as the new State Executive Director for the USDA Indiana Farm Service Agency.
Wickard has the same office in Indianapolis and even the desk from when she served in that capacity under the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.
“I just feel very blessed, honored and humbled, if you will, to have the opportunity to serve agriculture in this way,” she said.
Wickard and her husband, Chris, raise 40 head of registered Angus beef cattle and 15 registered Boer goats along with corn, soybeans and hay on over 1,000 acres in Hancock County east of Indianapolis.
Her refuge after working away from the farm during the day is returning at night to her family and to the animals in the barn.
Her job is making sure FSA programs contained in farm bills adopted by Congress are delivered to producers in the state.
The safety net programs involve commodity, conservation, credit and disaster assistance.
Her job also includes making sure decision makers at the top know about the concerns of farmers.
Wickard said the primary reason she agreed to return to her former position was to help farmers and work again with like-minded people.
“It’s for that reason. To come back and serve Indiana and American agriculture and to work with those employees that work sometimes on the top of a truck hood to process paperwork and ultimately be able to allow those farmers that want to be involved in our programs be able to enroll,” she said.
After her first stint with FSA, she went on to become Government Affairs Director and Agricultural Liaison with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Her work history also includes high ranking positions with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., and in the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wickard and others holding the same position have proven track records of commitment to advance their state and communities.
“We are fortunate to have each of these talented individuals at this critical time for farmers and producers and rural communities across America,” he said.
Marcus Graham, FSA Deputy Administrator for Field Operations, called the position of State Executive Director “a pivotal leadership position” filled by people who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.
Wickard is a graduate of Purdue University.
In 2019, she was recognized as a Purdue University Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication Distinguished Alumni. She’s also a recipient of the Purdue Ag Alumni Certificate of Distinction.
Wickard said one of her top priorities is to listening to everyone in the 75 FSA offices statewide to help keep the organization running at a high level.
Specifically, she wants to hear from staff members on “what’s working well, what might need some adjustment and maybe what’s not working well at all that needs to be reviewed and evaluated.”
She also wants to make sure the 75 FSA offices are equipped and ready to start providing good service to farmers who come in ready or interested in taking part in the assistance programs.
“I’m spending these first few weeks getting to know the team again. I really want to understand kind of the lay of the land,” Wickard said.
Her daughter, Jordyn, a high school senior and her son, Jacob, a high school sophomore, appear to be following in the same footsteps as their parents. They’re both involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and plan to attend Purdue University where their parents met while attending school.
The family also travels across the country showing their livestock in competitions.
She replaced Steve Brown who served in that capacity under the Trump administration.
Susan Houston was interim state executive director after Brown left once the Biden administration took over.