White House selects Keenum to chair BIFAD Board

MSU President Mark Keenum (courtesy)

President Donald Trump has designated Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum as the next chairman of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD).

Keenum said in a media release that during his tenure at MSU, the university has continued to build on its longtime reputation as one of the top agricultural schools in the nation.

“As an agricultural economist, I have long recognized the challenge facing our planet with both a growing population and serious challenges to future food supplies,” Keenum said. “Finding ways to enhance food security is literally a matter of life and death. It is important to preventing conflict among nations and is in our own national security interests. It is also simply the right thing to do and in keeping with my very personal and deeply-held religious values.”

BIFAD was created in 1975 under Title XII (Famine Prevention and Freedom from Hunger) of the Foreign Assistance Act.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker's office said in a statement that Wicker and former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran wrote to Trump in July 2017 to offer their strongest possible recommendation of Keenum for this appointment.

“Dr. Mark Keenum is an outstanding choice to serve as the Chairman of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development," Wicker said. "Mark is uniquely qualified for this role and has worked diligently throughout his career to solve the global food security crisis that threatens to affect the entire world in the coming years. I am proud to have recommended Mark for this appointment, and I applaud President Trump’s decision.”

MSU says the board’s mission is to draw on higher education’s scientific knowledge to advise U.S. international assistance efforts.

BIFAD members are appointed by the president and comprised primarily of members of the academic community with expertise in global food security and world hunger.

Mississippi Farm Bureau President Mike McCormick, who leads over 192,000 Farm Bureau members in the state’s 82 counties, said farmers across the state and nation face the challenge of feeding an increasing world population against the backdrop of unprecedented challenges

“To meet those challenges, those farmers will need the best science and technology tools available,” McCormick said. “It is very fitting that MSU President Mark Keenum has been chosen by President Trump to lead the efforts of BIFAD in addressing world hunger and global food security. MSU has a long and distinguished legacy in impactful research to serve that noble and necessary mission.”

Keenum, the former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, was previously appointed Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by President George W. Bush in 2006.

In 2014, he was appointed to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) by then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during the administration of President Barack Obama. Keenum was unanimously elected to chair the FFAR board in 2017.

Keenum began his career at MSU as a faculty member with the Mississippi State Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural Economics.