By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
DOVER, Del. — Before about 500 farmers and Delaware agriculture representatives, Delaware Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee handed out Secretary’s Awards for Distinguished Service to Bruce Hotchkiss and Michael Scuse.
“They have each taken different paths on the way to building a lasting legacy that has made agriculture stronger here in Delaware, on the Delmarva Peninsula, nationally, and internationally,” Kee said in presenting the awards at the 41st Delaware Agriculture Industry Dinner on Jan. 26.
Scuse is currently undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service at USDA, making him the top-ranking agriculture official in Delaware history.
He served as Delaware Secretary of Agriculture from 2001-08.
In his last year as agriculture secretary, Scuse started the Secretary’s Award, giving the first one to Ed Kee. Now coming full-circle, Kee returned the honor.
Prior to becoming secretary, Scuse was chairmen of the Kent County FSA committee, a position his father Clarence also had and the position his brother, Dale, now holds.
“Dedication to agriculture runs deep in the Scuse family,” Kee said.
Kee added though, that the most important thing to know about Scuse is that he’s a farmer, keeping the family farm in Smyrna, Del., going.
“He continues the Scuse family tradition from his dad Clarence, his mom Joyce and with his brother Dale,” Kee said.
Taking the podium, Scuse said he was humbled in receiving the award and attributed his successes to the help of so many in Delaware agriculture.
“Many of you in this room are responsible for me receiving this award tonight,” he said. “Because without your help, I would not have been able to make the difference that I’ve been able to make.”
Scuse added that his travels with USDA nationally and internationally have confirmed his pride in the farmers of Delaware.
“Make no mistake about it, these are the best agricultural producers to be found anywhere in the world,” Scuse said.
In the spring of 1978, Hotchkiss launced The Delmarva Farmer a newspaper with the mission of becoming the voice of agriculture, that Kee said, “has become an institution in our state and our region.”
“Bruce and his dedication to the highest level of professionalism in agricultural journalism has no doubt made a huge difference in the quality of life for our agricultural community,” Kee added.
Hotchkiss told the crowd how proud he was and humbled to receive the honor, but would be remiss in his newspaper’s mission if he didn’t take the opportunity to challenge those at the banquet.
“Particularly in this part of the country, agriculture is under assault,” Hotchkiss said, noting pending lawsuits and regulations that farmers see as a threat to their sustainability.
“We preach the gospel of agriculture every week in the publications we put out,” Hotchkiss said. “I want you join that fight. Across this country, ladies and gentlemen, there are organizations blossoming up to reeducate America about agriculture. I want you to join them. I want you start preaching out there, beyond the choir, the gospel of agriculture.”
(Photo courtesy Delaware Department of Agriculture)