Introduction to U.S. Embassy Madrid Blog on Agriculture and Sustainability
Hello, my name is Rachel Bickford and I am the Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain. I am a USDA employee representing U.S. farmers and all of USDA’s agencies in Spain and Portugal. I work with counterparts in the Spanish and Portuguese Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Energy to resolve technical issues to increase bilateral food and agricultural trade. In Madrid we have a talented staff that conducts analysis of strategic markets and contributes to the USDA database and reporting system called the Global Agricultural Information Network, or GAIN. Anyone in the world is welcome to read our reports at: http://gain.fas.usda.gov.
Before arriving in Spain in 2014, I served in Santiago, Chile and Pretoria, South Africa. In USDA I previously worked as a commodity analyst and trade policy specialist for Latin America. I visited and worked with my counterparts in Mexico, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Brazil, and Ecuador to advance regional trade in agricultural products .
I earned a Master’s Degree in English and Latin American Studies from the University of Rochester in NY and also have a strong interest in natural resource and development economics. I completed my Masters Degree from George Washington University in Washington DC, with a project analyzing El Salvadoran migration to the DC area. Growing up in Massachusetts I was active in 4-H with my sheep and still visit the vegetable farm where I grew up weeding strawberries and picking tomatoes.
I consider myself fortunate to have seen so many farming systems and to have met so many farmers and agriculturalists in so many countries. One of the greatest pleasures of my work is to promote exchanges of experiences and ideas between farmers, researchers, government officials and industry leaders. I have also enjoyed some fantastic food from all over the world!
Since traveling and working overseas, I have always been challenged by misperceptions related to U.S. agriculture. To many, U.S. agriculture and the U.S. food industry is only associated with factory farms and misperceptions related to GMOs. The fact is that our agricultural production system is incredibly diverse, innovative and sustainable. Producers have access to resources and technology that allows them to produce safe, affordable food in a sustainable manner – while facing the same constraints of farmers everywhere. We have a long history of conservation programs and regulations to protect our land, water, forest, wildlife and biodiversity. Our dynamic food industry gives consumers more choices than anywhere in the world.
With the help of friends and colleagues and a group of graduate students in the United States, I decided to create this blog to share some real life experiences of U.S. farmers, researchers, students and other stakeholders to provide a more accurate view of the U.S. food and agricultural system. Please enjoy and we look forward to your feedback!