Mark E. Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, has been designated chairman of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development by President Donald Trump.
BIFAD was created under the 1975 Title XII (Famine Prevention and Freedom from Hunger) Foreign Assistance Act. The mission of the BIFAD is to draw scientific knowledge from higher institutions of learning for advising U.S. international assistance efforts. BIFAD members are chosen from the academic community because of their insight and expertise in global food security and world hunger.
“As an agricultural economist, I have long been aware of the increasing demand on agriculture to provide food security for our world’s growing population,” says Keenum. “A viable food supply can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is in the interest of our national security and a factor in preventing conflict among nations of the world.”
Chip Morgan, executive vice president of the Delta Council, has known and worked with Keenum for over 30 years. Morgan has seen Keenum’s passion for crafting agricultural solutions to help solve world hunger and global food security issues. “I am gratified the White House has recognized the dedication and visionary leadership he will can offer to the issues addressed by the BIFAD,” says Morgan. “I cannot think of a more capable and qualified person to lead this board.”
Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, also praised Keenum’s designation. “Farmers across our state work diligently every year to provide food and fiber for an ever-expanding world population. They must have the best science and technologies to help them continue their efforts,” says McCormick. “MSU has a long history of providing impactful research to help farmers accomplish that critical and necessary mission.”
Keenum has a distinguished record of service in similar roles including an appointment to Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by President George W. Bush in 2006, and an appointment to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) by then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Keenum was unanimously elected to chair the FFAR board in 2017.
In 2014 he was named chairman of the Presidents United to Solve Hunger Steering Committee. PUSH is comprised of more than 80 universities across the world that work collaboratively to address global hunger and food security issues.
He was also named in 2016 to the Feed the Future Evaluation Oversight Committee, which assessed the Feed the Future initiative under the Agency for International Development. That same year he spoke in sessions at the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Summit at the United Nations where he highlighted the collaboration between nearly 90 universities in the PUSH consortium dedicated to making food and nutrition security a priority.
Keenum began his career at MSU as a faculty member with the Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural Economics. He went on to serve as chief of staff to former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in Washington, D.C.