Top North American agriculture leaders will help guide new international advisory network on extension

The North American Agricultural Advisory Network will be headquartered at CSU Spur in Denver.

The highest-ranking agricultural officials for Mexico, Canada, and the United States have joined the steering committee for a new North American network focused on the needs of agriculture and rural communities. The Secretariat for the North American Agricultural Advisory Network, or NAAAN, is hosted by the Colorado State University System and will be headquartered at CSU’s Spur campus, set to open in Denver in early 2022.

Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Victor Villalobos, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack all serve as ex officio members of the NAAAN Steering Committee.

“We are deeply honored that the top three agricultural officials in North America will help guide the work and mission of the NAAAN going forward,” said Kerri Wright Platais, director of international agriculture at CSU Spur and a member of the NAAAN Secretariat. “They share a deep commitment to collaboration and innovation in agriculture, and the NAAAN provides a platform to share information and knowledge across borders, for the benefit of all three countries and their agricultural industries and farming communities.”

The NAAAN links agricultural extension communities with one another and with stakeholders in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. NAAAN is the North American network for GFRAS, The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services, an international organization based in Switzerland that brings together diverse stakeholders working in agricultural extension worldwide. The NAAAN is the newest network, joining 17 others in the work of global food security.

“Canada is committed to working with the United States and Mexico to strengthen North American agriculture through knowledge development, networking, and policy advocacy,” said Steering Committee member David Gray, dean of agriculture at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and chair of the International Agriculture Section for the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities Agriculture Assembly. “NAAAN provides an important platform for sharing and connecting on common interests that add value to the agriculture industry, while also encouraging innovation and growth.”

“The United States, Canada and Mexico have built through the years a solid relationship of technical cooperation in the agricultural sector,” said Steering Committee member Lourdes Cruz Trinidad, general coordinator for international affairs with the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development in Mexico. “With the creation of the North American Agricultural Advisory Network (NAAAN) we are building in a collaborative manner, a structure to facilitate the exchange of experiences and lessons learned, while promoting opportunities for the development of joint research, extension services, and technology transfer in the agricultural sector. These are strategic actions that will benefit growers, farmers, ranchers and fishers, with positive impacts at the local, regional and global level.”

The agricultural industries in all three countries face challenges related to sustainability, land management, climate change, demographic shifts, food security, and competitiveness, Wright Platais said. Extension networks are critical sources of information and knowledge sharing for agriculture and the rural communities that sustain the industry.

The NAAAN steering committee members include:

  • Lourdes Cruz Trinidad, general coordinator of international affairs, Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mexico
  • Professor David Gray, dean of agriculture, Dalhousie University; chair, International Agriculture Section, APLU Agriculture Assembly
  • Mary Robinson, president, Canadian Federation of Agriculture; Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council
  • Douglas Steele, vice president for food, agriculture, & natural resources, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities
  • Carlos Vazquez Ochoa, minister counselor, Agricultural Office, Embassy of Mexico to the United States
  • Iowa State University Professor Cathie Woteki, who also serves as president of the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation

In addition to the Steering Committee, several high-level senior staff from each country have joined to represent the agricultural work of their countries.  Doug McKalip, senior advisor to the Secretary for USDA, is one of the newest staff members to join, in the capacity of agricultural advisor.

“There are many challenges facing future agriculture production that research, extension, and international collaboration can help solve,” McKalip said. “NAAAN will provide an invaluable forum for innovative thinking and coordinated action.”

The creation of the NAAAN took place across several key agencies and partners.  Organizations consulted on the formation of NAAAN included:  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and key agricultural stakeholders across North America.

A survey and mapping exercise, supported by the NAAAN Secretariat, is taking place across the three countries this summer, with input and advice from the experts in the extension, education, and rural advisory fields in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.  A summary of this study will be prepared for the World Food Prize, held in Des Moines Iowa in October.

CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank noted it is fitting that the NAAAN will be headquartered at CSU Spur, a one-of-a-kind campus focused on research, learning, and exploration in water, food systems, and human and animal health in Denver. “Spur is designed as a global hub for innovation and education in precisely those areas of focus for the North American Agricultural Advisory Network,” he said. “NAAAN will be focused on sharing knowledge and best practices, and it will be headquartered on a campus specifically designed for that purpose. We welcome the opportunity to support the network’s important work and engagement.”

To learn more about NAAAN and its upcoming activities, visit

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