The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

28 MAY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Mark Petry has served as deputy administrator, foreign affairs, of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Director General of the FAS Foreign Service since May 2023. He served as the managing director and deputy DG from 2021 to 2023. A career Foreign Service officer, he was chief of the agriculture section of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2017 to 2021 and acting director and deputy director of the New Technologies and Production Methods Division in FAS from 2010 to 2017. He also served as an agricultural attaché in Beijing and Moscow, and as an AFSA FAS representative and then vice president. He is an Indiana native with a wife and two children. In a significant incident in the history of international trade in agriculture, the Soviet Union shocked the world by leveraging the lack of market transparency to buy up global wheat stocks in the “Great Grain Robbery” of 1972. This led to higher global food prices, unexpected global food insecurity, and an examination of how it could happen without the United States’ knowledge. The event made international news and was also a powerful reminder to rural America, the agricultural community, and Americans generally that international affairs directly affects their lives and livelihoods. And it gave a sustained boost to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and its mission to link U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security. The incident showed that diplomacy matters and that letting this capacity atrophy has consequences. The fact that the Foreign Agricultural Service Act creating FAS was passed in 1930 proves this insight was not new, but the 1972 Grain Robbery and, later, the 1994 World Trade Organization Uruguay Round Agriculture Agreement provided the impetus for more ambitious commitments to market transparency and opening overseas markets to U.S. agricultural products. Is it a coincidence that AFSA won uncontested representation in FAS in 1994, the same year that a new paradigm in agricultural trade was launched? A Trusted Partner In more than 20 years in the Foreign Service and as an AFSA member, I have had the pleasure to be an AFSA FAS representative and vice president, and I am now USDA’s deputy administrator of foreign affairs (Director General of the FAS Foreign Service). In these various roles, I have seen AFSA as a partner and valuable contributor to the workings and culture at FAS, both as a union and a professional organization. AFSA’s dual role is a particularly valuable asset to FAS as a small foreign affairs agency. AFSA often serves as a facilitator, supplementing FAS’ institutional interactions with expertise and experiences that aren’t readily available to a small agency whose operational and administrative functions are confined to a relatively small office. Being able to consult with AFSA—a trusted partner that has a common interest in consistency, fairness, and adherence to the relevant laws and regulations that govern the Foreign Service—about how other agencies do this or that is very helpful. In addition to holding management to a high standard internally and with other Foreign Service agencies, FAS AFSA representatives have historically also been known for constructive engagement on how our organization can meet our trade and food security mission while treating employees with respect and fairness, the hallmark of a union that is poised to productively represent employees going into the future. AFSA can also help FAS integrate with the broader foreign affairs community and have a voice in the conversation. As economic diplomacy continues to receive greater attention, agricultural trade and food security play an increasingly vital role. Incorporating the voice of rural America strengthens understanding and support for diplomacy among an influential segment of our population. Whether food insecurity issues emanating from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the impact of climate change on global food trade and availability, the foreign policy community benefits from the data, analysis, and active participation of a specialized foreign affairs agency like FAS. FOCUS ON CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION BY MARK PETRY AFSA: A Vital Voice for Small Agencies