USDA inducts two new members to Agriculture Hall of Heroes

Nov 06, 2015

Cesar Chavez and Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton will be inducted

By Diego Flammini,

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Hall of Heroes is gaining two new members.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the induction of Cesar Chavez and Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton to the Hall of Heroes. They will be honored with plaques in the entrance to the USDA’s Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building.

"Both Cesar Chavez and Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton dedicated their public and private lives to improving various facets of food and agriculture," said Vilsack. "The abundant, resilient and diverse food supply that Americans are fortunate to rely on today is a direct result of their commitments and innovations, and I am honored to add these inspiring individuals among USDA's Hall of Heroes."

Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

Cesar Chavez

Using his experiences as a migrant worker, Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improving conditions for farm workers.

In 1962 he founded the National Farm Workers Association. During a strike with California grape growers, his association joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. The two groups eventually merged to become the United Farm Workers.

Chavez used nonviolent approaches including boycotts, marches and hunger strikes to ensure pay raises and improve working conditions for farm workers.

“Today, USDA is humbled to honor Cesar Chavez, the man who led and organized peaceful, positive change for American farmworkers,” Vilsack said.

Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton (1939-)

Dr. Mary-Dell ChiltonDr. Mary-Dell Chilton is considered a founder of modern plant biotechnology and is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Agrobacterium”.

"Dr. Chilton's research has forever changed the way we conduct plant research and her groundbreaking accomplishments have shaped the way genetic plant research is conducted today," said Vilsack. "I am pleased to honor Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton for her leadership and tremendous contributions to the field of agriculture."

In 1983, Dr. Chilton and her team produced the first transgenic plant. Her research at Syngenta has improved plant resistance to insects, disease, and adverse weather conditions.

The USDA Hall of Heroes Program was started in May 1999 by then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Its aim is to recognize impactful and long-lasting contributions to national and international agriculture.

Other notable inductees include Smokey Bear and Senator Tom Harkin.

Congratulations to the inductees and their families.

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