Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), Arlington, Va., announced the promotion of Krysta Harden from chief operating officer (COO) to president and CEO of USDEC.
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 34,000 dairy farmers. Harden succeeds former USDEC President and CEO Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed as secretary of agriculture in the Biden administration, the organizations said.
Harden is 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, she will leverage a strong background within agriculture, sustainability and food policy in fulfilling USDEC’s mission to promote dairy exports and enrich the wellbeing of people, communities and the planet, DMI and USDEC said.
“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.”
Before joining DMI, Harden served as chief sustainability officer with Corteva and DuPont. She 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, the organizations said.
In her new role, Harden will direct a staff of dairy trade specialists, trade policy professionals, a global marketing team and 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. She 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.
“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.”
Under Vilsack and Harden’s leadership in 2020, the U.S. exported more than 2 million tons of dairy solids — an all-time record. With expanded support from state and regional dairy organizations during Vilsack’s tenure, USDEC put more people, promotions and partnerships to work for U.S. dairy producers and processors, DMI and USDEC noted. This leadership focusing on meeting international customer needs helped the industry grow and diversify as a supplier of choice in global markets.
“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.”