MSU Office of Public Affairs

News Bureau (662) 325-3442

Contact: Sid Salter

[email protected]

April 20, 2018

White House taps MSU’s Keenum to chair BIFAD board

Newswise — STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum was designated chairman of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD) by President Donald J. Trump, the White House announced this week.

BIFAD was created in 1975 under Title XII (Famine Prevention and Freedom from Hunger) of the Foreign Assistance Act. The board’s mission is to draw on higher education’s scientific knowledge to advise U.S. international assistance efforts. The President appoints BIFAD’s members, comprised primarily of members of the academic community with expertise in global food security and world hunger.

“During my tenure at MSU, our university has continued to build on our longtime reputation as one of the top agricultural schools in the nation,” said Keenum. “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. 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.”

Mississippi agricultural leaders praised Keenum’s designation to the BIFAD leadership post, including Delta Council Executive Vice President Chip Morgan: “After more than 30 years of working with Mark Keenum and watching his undeniable passion for the solutions agriculture can and must bring to the issues of world hunger and global food security, I’m gratified that the White House has recognized Mark’s truly visionary national and international leadership on these issues through this designation by President Trump. I cannot think of a more capable, qualified person to lead this vital board than Mark Keenum,” said Morgan, who also serves on Mississippi’s Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

The leader of Mississippi’s largest general farm organization also praised Keenum’s selection.

Mississippi Farm Bureau President Mike McCormick, who leads over 192,000 Farm Bureau members in the state’s 82 counties, said: “Farmers across our great 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. 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.”

Prior to accepting the presidency at MSU, Keenum was in 2006 appointed Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by President George W. Bush. In 2014, Keenum 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.

In 2014, Keenum was named chairman of the Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) Steering Committee. PUSH is an organization of more than 80 universities worldwide that work together to address global hunger and food security issues. In that role, Keenum addressed the United Nations on global food security and world hunger initiatives.

In 2016, Keenum was named to the Feed the Future Evaluation Oversight Committee, which evaluated the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future initiative. That same year, Keenum spoke in sessions at the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Summit at the UN – touting the collaboration between nearly 90 universities in the PUSH consortium dedicated to making food and nutrition security a priority.

Keenum was also appointed to the Challenge of Change Commission by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, served on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Agriculture Development Initiative, and was named to the USAID’s Soybean Innovation Lab Advisory Board.

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.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at