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  • USDEC's new leader plans to continue aggressive approach to growing U.S. dairy exports

    By Mark O'Keefe March 2, 2021

    Krysta Harden becomes USDEC President and CEO after the Senate confirmation of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

    Since Dairy Management Inc. founded the U.S. Dairy Export Council in 1995, U.S. dairy export volume has increased 523% while value has increased 744%. 

    That's a growth story that has benefited the vast U.S. dairy industry, the nearly 3 million jobs it supports and the revenue dairy pumps into state and local economies from California to Pennsylvania.

    One out of six gallons of milk produced in the United States now crosses our borders in the form of exported cheese and dairy ingredients. More American milk is leaving the country now than ever before, thanks to exports. 

    Krysta photo (2)Krysta Harden

    Optimism about more growth potential

    Looking at market fundamentals projected for the long-term future, new USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden is bullish about exports increasing for the U.S. dairy industry. Harden took over at USDEC immediately after the U.S. Senate (February 23) confirmed Secretary Tom Vilsack's nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Biden administration.

    “Secretary Vilsack’s USDEC leadership since 2017 fine-tuned the organization to reach record growth in U.S. dairy exports, and l look to build on his legacy,” said Harden. “I will continue his aggressive approach to engaging USDEC member companies, exporters, and dairy producers in export market development efforts.

    "I’ll also work with DMI leadership on issues critical to the dairy industry while leveraging USDEC’s unique leadership role in promoting the United States’ preeminent position as sustainably producing the highest quality dairy products and ingredients anywhere in the world.”

    Harden was named USDEC COO in May 2020. During that time, she continued her role as executive vice-president of global environmental strategy for DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff for U.S. dairy farmers. 

    How USDEC builds on the commitment to exports

    As the leading dairy export success accelerator, USDEC’s mission is to enrich the well-being of people, communities and the planet. A nonprofit organization, USDEC does not sell dairy products. It helps build demand for U.S. dairy around the world and opens doors for its member companies to meet that demand.

    Global dairy markets go up and down for myriad reasons, including macro-trends outside the control of USDEC and its member companies. USDEC helps pave the way to capitalize on opportunities in both the short-term and long-term.

    With expanded support from state and regional dairy organizations, USDEC is putting more people, promotions, and partnerships to work for U.S. dairy producers and processors than ever before. 

    In 2020, the U.S. exported more than two million tons of dairy solids – an all-time record.

    Graphic2


    USDEC's first female President and CEO

    Harden becomes only the third president and CEO to lead USDEC since its founding by DMI in 1995 and is its first female chief executive.

    In her new role, Harden will leverage a strong background within agriculture, sustainability, and food policy in fulfilling USDEC’s mission to promote dairy exports and enrich the well-being of people, communities, and the planet.

    “Krysta has been an incredible addition to the DMI and USDEC staff and will do an excellent job for dairy farmers at USDEC,” said Thomas Gallagher, DMI CEO. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Krysta’s background and experience in agriculture and with USDEC ready to step into this critical leadership role.”

    Background in government, business and dairy

    Before joining DMI, Harden served as Chief Sustainability Officer with Corteva and DuPont. Harden also spent seven years working with Vilsack at USDA, nearly three of those years as deputy secretary, following posts as Vilsack’s USDA chief of staff and assistant secretary for Congressional relations.

    At USDA, Harden helped shape agriculture policy and led the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. Prior to joining USDA, Harden was CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts, providing national leadership for thousands of conservation districts across the nation.

    In her new role, Harden will direct a staff of dairy trade specialists, trade policy professionals, a global marketing team, a strategy, and insights team, and oversee eight international offices working to facilitate dairy product and ingredient application knowledge, identify market opportunities, monitor regulatory activity and work toward improving the business climate for U.S. dairy.

    Harden also will continue to be active in global organizations, including the World Economic Forum, Global Child Nutrition Foundation, and the upcoming U.N. World Food Systems Summit.

    Focusing on needs of international customers

    In 2020, meeting international customer needs helped the industry grow and diversify as a supplier of choice in global markets, overcoming the challenges of COVID-19.

    “The leadership collaboration between Secretary Vilsack and Krysta Harden this past year was exceptional and helped USDEC drive export gains for U.S. dairy producers amid a very disruptive pandemic,” said Larry Hancock, chairman of the USDEC Board of Directors and a Muleshoe, Texas, dairy producer. “Krysta can lead us to achieve still greater success.”

    Harden and her husband, Charles Hatcher, live in Alexandria, Va. She serves as vice-chair of the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees and is a member of the board of directors for the Global Child Nutrition Foundation.

    For more information, see the USDEC press releases on the Secretary’s confirmation and on Harden’s promotion

    Learn more:


    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. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post. 

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