Maryland Alum, 4-H Star Leads Nation's Conservation Efforts

Adrienne Wojciechowski's Passion is Rooted in Family Ties to Extension and Agriculture

Agriculture has always featured prominently in the life of Adrienne Wojciechowski ’01, and she has built a career working to support it. As the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Congressional Relations in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) -a post to which she was nominated in 2021 by President Biden and later confirmed by the U.S. Senate-she may not always be the person in the spotlight, but she is constantly working behind the scenes as an advocate for agriculture, conservation, climate efforts, and families.

In her current role, Wojciechowski serves as one of the top staff members on the leadership team of Secretary Tom Vilsack. Her office serves as the USDA’s liaison with Congress, working closely with members of various House and Senate committees to communicate the administration’s legislative agenda and budget proposals.

“Adrienne has a deep-rooted and impressive career working on matters related to agriculture, conserva­tion, and climate change, particularly in a bipartisan manner in the United States Senate,” said Secretary Vilsack in a USDA press release. “As a sustainability champion and an expert on legislation, we are fortu­nate to add her as a leader at USDA as we continue to advance opportunities to build back better and invest in our communities, our infrastructure, our food systems, and our families.”

Wojciechowski’s passion for agriculture started at a young age. As a kid, she worked at her brother’s roadside produce stand selling sweet corn, tomatoes, and melons. She vividly remembers the farms in Montgomery County, Md., where he rented land to grow produce. Over the years, she noticed how this same farmland was constantly threatened by the prospect of development, noting that “where corn and pumpkins once grew, now stand McMansions.”

As she has ventured further into the world of govern­ment, she is amazed at how people from both sides of the aisle can agree on certain issues such as investing in voluntary conservation efforts and preserving agricul­tural land, evidenced in the highly popular Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Farm Bill programs.

“There are so many great things happening here at the USDA, and that's part of my job to make sure people on the Hill are aware of what we are doing,” said Wojciechowski. “How are we focusing on com­munities that have been underserved or individuals that feel they have been left out? We reach Americans every day in some sort of way by finding new ways to transform our food system. But it’s so much more than just food—if you turn on the lights, we’re finding new ways to get involved with improving the power sources in your rural area, while also helping farmers and rural businesses and residents to lower energy costs and make energy-efficiency improvements.”

Much of Wojciechowski’s current work still brings her back to her connection with agriculture in the state of Maryland. Her mother, Madeleine, was a University of Maryland Extension agent and her father, Robert, worked as a branch chief in the livestock programs division of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service at the USDA, known today as the Farm Service Agency. She was also an active participant in Maryland 4-H growing up, where she raised and showed beef steers at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and participated in programs such as International Farm Youth Exchange and the Maryland Make It Yourself with Wool competition (which she won thanks to her amazing sewing skills).

Since graduating from University of Maryland with a double degree in Agricultural & Resource Economics and Government & Politics, she has seen many different sides to the industry, working for the Nature Conservancy then transitioning to government work for numerous years as an agriculture and policy staffer and advisor to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.  One of her most notable accomplishments in this role was serving as a Professional Staff Member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcom­mittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, where she managed a portfolio of more than $5 billion, serving as the lead advisor on farm production, conservation, climate change, marketing, education, and other programs. In her new role, she continues to see the similarities in her academic and professional path.

“The College of Agriculture & Natural Resources is an example like USDA, where agriculture isn’t just about corn and beans, or typical things that come to mind,” said Wojciechowski. “There are so many other things that are happening in both the state of Maryland and across the country that are supporting different areas of need. It’s exciting how people are really focused on their food system and where their food is coming from and how it is produced. It’s a constant push and I know people in Maryland are really playing an important part in helping to lead the way.”

by Andrew Muir : Momentum Summer 2022