The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News
  • Insightful perspectives from the U.S. Dairy Export Council's new president and CEO

    By Mark O'Keefe April 29, 2021

    Krysta Harden has made her views known on the bright future of exports, the importance of sustainability and what fuels her vision.

    April 24 marked the two-month anniversary of Krysta Harden being named the first female president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Harden succeeded her mentor, Tom Vilsack, who returned to government service as U.S. Agriculture Secretary.

    It has been a busy couple of months for Harden, with much of her time spent asking and answering questions, mostly online due to COVID travel restrictions. People want to know who Harden is, where she sees U.S. dairy exports heading and what she thinks about sustainability and other key issues affecting the entire dairy industry.  

    This article presents Harden in her own words, with minor edits made for clarity, grammar and flow. The text, video and audio below provide examples of a conversational and candid communications style while also providing insights into the type of leader Harden is and will be for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the U.S. dairy industry and U.S. agriculture.

    In her own words: USDEC's Krysta Harden

    The daughter of Georgia peanut farmers: “I start every speech, no matter where I am in the world, with the same introduction of who I am, the daughter of peanut farmers from Georgia. My parents are still there on the farm. That is where I come from. That’s the heart and soul of who I am, where I learned my ethics, my values, my commitment, my love of the land and my passion for agriculture.” (Venue: USDEC Spring Membership Meeting, April 20) 


    Saying what she thinks:
    "I wear my heart on the outside. Now some people will say that is a weakness. But I'll tell you it's my strength because I am the same every day. I'm committed every day. I'm behind you every day." (Venue: USDEC staff meeting, Feb. 26)

    Following Secretary Vilsack: "I like to be associated with winners and folks who are making a difference, who are accomplishing good things but also have a vision for the future. We've had 25 great years at USDEC and four of those with the best leader in the free world if you ask me. He opened doors and we're going to walk through them." (Venue: USDEC staff meeting, Feb. 26)

    The evolution of exports: "In the 25 years since the formation of USDEC, U.S. dairy exports have gone from ‘nice to do,’ to ‘good to do,’ to ‘must do.’ " (Venue: USDEC Spring Membership Meeting, April 20)

    What USDEC does and doesn't do: "I want to remind listeners that the U.S. Dairy Export Council doesn't sell one drop of milk or product. We don't export. Our members export. Our members fight it out in the marketplace. We open doors. We build relationships. We sell reputation and we sell the consistent quality and value of U.S. dairy exports." (Venue: Agri-Pulse Policy Summit, March 23)

    Pushing members to do more: "I pledge to you that I will be open and accessible. I'm going to be transparent. I'm going to be honest with you. I'm going to be straightforward even when it makes you uncomfortable. I'm going to push you to do more, to be engaged and involved because this organization is only as good as its members. (Venue: USDEC Spring Membership Meeting, April 20)

    A bottom-line focus for farmers: "I've always had a focus on helping farmers and ranchers stay on the land. My motivation at USDEC is really about making sure that we are creating situations where farmers can make money running profitable businesses, and doing it the right way." (Venue: Agri-Talk interview, April 2) 


    Challenging USDEC's staff:
    "We must keep going and keep pushing and keep being the very, very best that we can be. And if every one of us takes that pledge to be the best we can be, then your job becomes personal." (Venue: USDEC staff meeting, Feb. 26)

    Courage to invest in new markets: “We are going to have to continue to have the courage to invest in new and emerging markets—get out of our comfort zones, get out of the traditional markets we’ve always gone (citing Mexico and China). Great markets, great partnerships, great friends. But it’s not enough. We saw that for sure in 2020. We have to have the courage to push to places unknown.” (Venue: USDEC Spring Membership Meeting, April 20)

    Customer questions about U.S. sustainability: "The question that comes up more and more all the time compared to a decade ago is about our environmental footprint and our commitment to sustainability. We know that we've got good products and we know we can compete internationally but we're going to have to be ready to answer the sustainability questions. I believe it gives us a leg up in the marketplace. (Venue: Agri-Pulse Policy Summit, March 23)


    The UN Food Systems Summit:
    "I want to make sure that listeners understand that the UN Food Systems Summit (in September) is a globally influenced event that will impact food, farm and trade policy going forward for years to come. The Summit's stated goal is to radically change the way we produce, process and consume food. If that doesn't wake you up and make you think, I'm not sure what will. We need to make sure that U.S. dairy's voice is heard and understood. We need to talk about technologies. We need to talk about things as simple as precision agriculture. I'm a daughter of farmers and we've been using precision ag for many years. Things that are understood and trusted by farmers like crop rotation and cover crops need to be explained. (Venue: National Milk Producers Federation podcast, April 20)

    Why the world needs our milk: “Our farmers are efficient, they’re effective, they’re impactful. They also produce more than we’re going to consume in the U.S. because our population is more stable than fast-growing populations around the world in Southeast Asia and other markets. The good news is we can help feed other countries and ourselves by providing nutritious, healthy dairy products. That’s what really motivates me about this position —taking the things we are doing here and sharing them with the world, and along the way helping dairy farmers.” (Venue: Agri-Talk interview, April 2)

    Brick-and-mortar in Southeast Asia: "We have sent a signal that we are in Southeast Asia for the long haul. It's a statement that we are serious about our partnerships in Southeast Asia. This is not a come-and-go type of situation where we just have a test kitchen. Our USDEC members can use this Center for meetings. We can have webinars. The pandemic shut things down for a while, but when everything is open again we will be sending a message to Southeast Asia that U.S. Dairy is very serious about this region and we're serious about exporting there. I think that is going to make the difference because it's about trust. It's about building a reliable reputation when we say we have high-value ingredients and our cheeses are high quality. (Venue: Agri-Talk interview, April 2)

    The global source of choice:  "We've got to continue to invest to make sure we have the programs, to make sure we have the partnerships, to build trust with partners around the world. ... The goal is to make sure we are the source of choice.” (Venue: USDEC Spring Membership Meeting, April 20)


    Mexico's economy:
    "It is our No. 1 market. They like our products. But I do have some concerns. Mexico's economy was hit very hard by COVID. It may take a while to recover.
    Still, there remains a great opportunity. We have a history of relationships in Mexico and their consumers like our products. We have to make sure that we continue to work hard in Mexico to grow in Mexico." (Venue: Agri-Talk interview, April 2)

    Untapped opportunities in China: "China is our third-largest export market. It's a workhorse for us, particularly with whey and lactose. As they continue to rebuild their pig herd after the African Swine Fever there is a lot of hope that this will continue to grow. There are also some untapped opportunities we are focusing on. Our market share in China on milk powder has been small. For skim milk powder, it was 6.9% in 2020. We see the potential for growth. So even though we are doing well in China with some of our products, there is great upside to increase our market share of other products. (Venue: Agri-Talk interview, April 2)

    Gratitude: "The last thing I will say is thank you. I want to thank the dairy farmers. I want to thank our members. I want to thank DMI leadership for the faith and the trust and the confidence they have shown me. I don't take it lightly, and I dang sure don't take it for granted. I'm not going to let them down because you're not going to let me down." (Venue: USDEC staff meeting, Feb. 26)


    Learn more about Krysta Harden:


    Subscribe to the U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog
        


    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. Dairy Management Inc. primarily supports USDEC through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

    About USDEC
FAQ

10 Most Recent Posts

Most Popular Posts in Past Year

Index of Posts by Date, Author

Archives (by date)

+ more archives