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The Increasing and Ever-Evolving Role of Trade in American Agriculture

September 22, 2023

By Kelly Sheridan, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student

During our immersive week in Washington, D.C., my graduate school cohort had the privilege to meet with Alexis Taylor, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs (TFAA), and her chief of staff, Jamal Habibi. Under Secretary Taylor is only the second official to hold this position.  No stranger to USDA, Under Secretary Taylor served at the department from 2013 – 2017 in a variety of different roles, with the last being delegated the duties of the Under Secretary for the then Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services mission area. Taylor then went on to become the Director of Agriculture for the State of Oregon until 2022. 

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An Inside Look at Efforts at USDA to Build a Resilient Food System

September 20, 2023

By Amy Mattias, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student

The halls of the USDA Whitten Building in Washington, D.C. were filled with chatter as our group of Sustainable Food Systems graduate students headed to hear from the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), Jennifer Lester Moffitt, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator, Bruce Summers, and AMS Associate Administrator, Melissa Bailey. USDA has eight mission areas overseen by Under Secretaries, one of which is Marketing and Regulatory Programs. As Under Secretary for this mission area, Moffitt works closely with Administrator Summers and Associate Administrator Bailey as she directs the work of AMS along with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). These two agencies are leaders in setting national and international standards, regulating genetic modification techniques, protecting the domestic health and welfare of plants and animals, and the marketing of all agricultural products produced domestically.

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Meet affiliated faculty Jan Stanley

September 20, 2023

In this series, we're sitting down with the Swette Center-affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.

Read on for an interview with Jan Stanley, Affiliate Global Futures Scholar, Executive  Coordinator in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Secretary of the University, and Contributing Editor for the ASU Alumni Association. 

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Strategies for Successful Policy Making: Building and Sustaining Relationships

September 15, 2023

By Leanne Kami, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Graduate students from the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems got a taste of policy in action this spring as part of a weeklong immersive experience in Washington, D.C., focused on food policy.  Among the tools and tactics shared by experts, ranging from rulemaking to media and advocacy, a common theme shared throughout the week was the importance of networks and relationships.

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Behind the Scenes with the Office of Management and Budget

September 11, 2023

By Kaysey England, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

During our Sustainable Food Systems graduate program food policy immersion experience in the spring of 2023, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). We were joined by Ruth Saunders, Agriculture Branch Chief, and Nora Stein, Program Examiner, to learn of the critical role OMB plays in the United States government.

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Moving Dollars and Driving Innovation: The Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area

August 30, 2023

By Connor Kaeb, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Recently, the Sustainable Food Systems graduate cohort from Arizona State University spent a week in Washington, DC, meeting with policy leaders and influencers in our nation’s capital. As part of this immersive experience, we had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area.

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Meet affiliated faculty Isaac Joslin

August 28, 2023

In this series, we're sitting down with the Swette Center-affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.

Read on for an interview with Isaac Joslin, Senior Global Futures Scholar and Assistant Professor of French in the School of International Letters and Culture.

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Public Servant Passionate for Housing and Urban Policy

August 24, 2023

By: Mauricio Cordova Flores, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

His passion for solving social-economic issues has driven Chad Maisel’s career through positions at the USDA, Senator Cory Booker’s office, and two positions at the White House. He is currently the Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council. My graduate cohort had the opportunity to meet with Chad on May 8th, 2023, the first day of our Applied Food Policy immersive class in Washington, DC.

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Meet affiliated faculty Joanne Cacciatore

August 23, 2023

In this series, we're sitting down with the Swette Center-affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.

Read on for an interview with Joanne Cacciatore, Senior Global Futures Scholar and Professor in the School of Social Work.

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Breaking Silos and Building Equity in Rural Development

August 21, 2023

By Janell Bohreer, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Note: This blog was originally written in May of 2023. On July 17, 2023, Xochitl Torres Small was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The food policy immersion week in Washington, D.C. affords students in ASU’s Sustainable Food Systems graduate programs an unparalleled experience. This year, the 2022 cohort had the distinct and fortuitous opportunity to meet with the Under Secretary of Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small. Despite a hectic schedule of committee hearings following her recent nomination for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Under Secretary Torres Small graciously set aside time to address the future leaders in sustainable agriculture policy. Her passion and commitment to the mission of Rural Development were immediately apparent when she discussed her role delivering on the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.

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Mission Nutrition with Kumar Chandran, USDA Senior Advisor

July 20, 2023

By Sarah Williams, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Our cohort was extremely fortunate to spend a week in Washington D.C. to learn more about the intricacies and complexities of policy making. We met with many varied stakeholders working within the policy sphere to learn about the impacts one can have and the many paths that can lead you there. One such individual that I was especially ecstatic to meet was Kumar Chandran.

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ASU Swette Center Given Lead Role in USDA Program: $100 Million to Support Transitioning and Existing Organic Producers

July 13, 2023

As part of USDA’s $100 Million Dollar Transition to Organic Partnerships Program (TOPP), the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems will serve as the state lead to support farmers across Arizona as they transition to organic farming systems. This is a nation-wide collaboration led by the National Organic Program that will build programs specifically designed for farmers transitioning to organic practices and will include farmer-to-farmer mentorship, technical assistance, workforce development, and community building initiatives. This work is funded by a 5-year cooperative agreement overseen by the Western/Southwestern Regional Center for Organic Transition, housed at the non-profit organic certifier California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). 

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Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: Farmer and Food Systems Advocate

June 30, 2023

By Elizabeth Reilly, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

In her remarks to a room full of agriculture advocates and change agents, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) emphasized that “farmers are leading the way” in building a more sustainable food system. There is no one more emblematic of that statement than Congresswoman Pingree herself. As both a certified organic farmer and member of Congress, she’s long been at the forefront of food systems change.

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Student Worker Appreciation

June 14, 2023

Looking back on the 2022-23 school year, we would like to express our appreciation for our student workers and their valuable contributions to the Swette Center. Their creativity, vibrant personalities, and passion for sustainable food systems greatly enhance our team. We are pleased that they will continue to work with us this summer and during the upcoming school year!

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Reflections on a Gathering for Small Minority Food Producers in Arizona

June 9, 2023

By Sara El-Sayed, Assistant Research Professor, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems.

On May 6th, 2023, a windy and sunny spring day, I was excited to attend the 2nd Annual Small Minority Farmers and Ranchers Conference. The conference was hosted and led by Rachel and James Stewart, founders and owners of Southwest Black Ranchers of Douglas, Arizona. They are also the founders of People 1st Global Food and Land Reclamation Foundation, whose mission is to build a self-sufficient food economy supporting farming, entrepreneurship, and land ownership for underserved communities. At the event, which the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems helped sponsor, small and minority farmers were engaged in activities that were designed to help build their capacity, identify challenges they face, and familiarize them with resources available through USDA, such as the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). 

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Meet affiliated faculty Hamid Marvi

May 30, 2023

In this series, we’re sitting down with the Swette Center-affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.

Read on for an interview with Hamid Marvi, Senior Global Futures Scientist and Associate Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

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Takeaways of the 2022 Food & Farm Immersion

May 10, 2023

By: Samking Braima, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

This blog captures the reflections and main takeaways of the Food and Farm Immersion course from a handful of students within this year's graduate cohort. The immersive is a key component of the curriculum for the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership graduate certificate and the Sustainable Food Systems master's degree. These comments were collected during the trip from observations and conversations, as well as after the trip via email and text when the students returned home and had time to consolidate their experiences. While the reflections vary in a lot of aspects, similar themes of eye-opening experiences, inspiring learnings, and comradery stood out from their responses. To read the student bios, click here.

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These four challenges will shape the next farm bill – and how the US eats

May 9, 2023

By Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University

For the 20th time since 1933, Congress is writing a multiyear farm bill that will shape what kind of food U.S. farmers grow, how they raise it and how it gets to consumers. These measures are large, complex and expensive: The next farm bill is projected to cost taxpayers US$1.5 trillion over 10 years.

Modern farm bills address many things besides food, from rural broadband access to biofuels and even help for small towns to buy police cars. These measures bring out a dizzying range of interest groups with diverse agendas.

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Public-Private Partnerships in Food Systems: How It’s Done at the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture

May 5, 2023

By: Janell Bohreer, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Note: Paul Brierley has now transitioned into a new position as Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

The close of fall semester is busy with final exams and papers along with holiday travel plans for most students at Arizona State University. For sustainable food systems graduate students, the end of the semester kicks off Professor Merrigan’s favorite course: the Food and Farm Immersion. Students enrolled in the program have the singular opportunity to visit and speak with people at the forefront of Arizona’s food systems operations. This year’s immersive provided firsthand, comprehensive introductions to many aspects of our state’s food systems, from touring ranches, farms, and community gardens to inspecting produce with an agent at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office. As future leaders, this immersion course allowed us to listen to various perspectives from many diverse stakeholders, laying the foundation for effective policymaking.

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