Press Release

CNFA Elects Espy as Chair

Former Agriculture Secretary to Assume Helm of CNFA Board

WASHINGTON, D.C.Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international agricultural development organization, announced that A. Michael (Mike) Espy, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been appointed to chair the CNFA Board of Directors. Espy was voted into the position with the unanimous support of board members following CNFA’s fall board meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, during the World Food Prize Foundation’s 2022 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue.

Effective January 1, 2023, Espy succeeds Elin Miller who will continue to serve as a member of the CNFA Board. Miller served as the chair of the board from 2017 to 2022.

Prior to serving as agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration, Espy served seven years as U.S. representative for the 2nd District of Mississippi. On both occasions, he was the first African American to hold the position. Currently, he works as a private sector attorney, counselor and agricultural advisor, running his own law firm, Mike Espy, PLLC. He has been a member of the CNFA Board since 2008 and will be the first African American to serve as chair.

“I am grateful for having had the privilege of contributing to the growth and advancement of CNFA’s critical work to ensure the nutritional and economic well-being of underserved rural populations around the world,” said Miller. “I also am pleased to pass the helm to such a capable successor. Mike’s extensive experience as a top agricultural executive in both the public and private sectors brings CNFA a leader who is exceptionally well equipped to bring those two entities together to accomplish the goals of our organization.”

Elected to Congress in 1986, Espy served as a member of the Budget and Agriculture Committees, and as a member of the Domestic Task Force of the Select Committee on Hunger. Prior to that, he worked as a trial lawyer and served as assistant attorney general and director of the Mississippi Office of Consumer Protection. He served in a number of other positions in Mississippi, including as assistant secretary of state, and director of the Office of Public Lands. He has also worked with various international non-profit organizations in Africa, including serving for six years as a senior advisor and legal counsel for an international food charity that grew to be the ninth-largest food charity in the world during his time there, feeding millions every day.

“Mike has consistently made valuable contributions to our mission during his years as a CNFA board member,” said CNFA President and CEO Sylvain Roy. “He combines solid government and agricultural expertise with a practical, on-the-ground style that melds perfectly with CNFA’s approach to international development. We look forward to making even greater use of his skills as we continue to work with private- and public-sector partners to help meet the world’s growing demand for food. CNFA also wishes to thank Elin Miller for her work to improve the governance of our organization and advance our strategic objectives over the past several years.”

“I am honored that the CNFA Board has entrusted me to chair this extraordinary organization,” Espy said. “I look forward to working closely with them to ensure the continued success of our current initiatives around the world—and of those yet to come.”

CNFA was founded in 1985 as the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs with the aim of building a broader public understanding of U.S. international relationships and its increasing importance, particularly with regard to developing countries. In the 1990s, CNFA found success linking agribusinesses to agricultural inputs, through programs funded by USAID and USDA. The USAID Farm Store Program (1999-2002), implemented by CNFA in Moldova, was especially successful and launched Farm Service Centers, which continue to connect agribusinesses with quality inputs and services in over 200 locations across seven different countries. CNFA changed its name in 2007 to be more representative of its focus on international agricultural development. Today, the organization partners with communities around the world to facilitate market access, enhance agribusiness competitiveness, increase productivity and improve access to inputs and financing. With the number of people globally almost doubling since CNFA’s inception, these initiatives are necessary to feed a population that continues to grow.

“With the global population surpassing 8 billion people, now more than ever it is critical that the most vulnerable groups have access to the resources they need to sustain a healthy livelihood,” said Espy. “As chair, I will make sure that CNFA continues to go above and beyond to work with local and global partners to meet the world’s growing demand for food.”

A native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, Espy graduated from Howard University and holds a law degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law.


About CNFA: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) is an international agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives. CNFA works with businesses, foundations, governments, and communities to build customized local and global partnerships that meet the world’s growing demand for food. Since its inception in 1985, CNFA has designed and implemented enterprise-based, agricultural development initiatives to facilitate market access, enhance agribusiness competitiveness, increase productivity and improve access to inputs and financing in 47 countries.