(April 3) With nearly 20 years service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, associate administrator Ken Clayton retired April 3.

“It will be grandkids, dogs and doing whatever,” Clayton said March 31.

Clayton, 60, said he is looking forward to relaxing and has no immediate plans to do any consulting or any other job.

Clayton had served as acting assistant secretary and acting deputy assistant secretary for marketing and inspection programs at USDA. Before joining the marketing service, he was senior economist at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Before then, he served in various roles at the USDA’s Economic Research Service from 1979-87.

Clayton said his involvement with the start of the Dispute Resolution Corp. in the late 1990s and his role in recent years as government liaison to the DRC board of directors as memorable and significant. The DRC helps resolve business disputes between produce buyers and sellers in Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

Clayton also expressed satisfaction in the expansion of international market news reporting during his tenure at AMS. For example, he said more than 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere now share agricultural market news information.

As AMS associate administrator, Clayton was responsible for overseeing voluntary fee-for-service certifications of product quality and verifications of marketing claims, daily commodity price reporting for U.S. and foreign markets, industry-funded research and promotion programs, and regulatory programs that ensure fair trade practices.

Some of the work Clayton did at ERS included studies evaluating how AMS operated.

“I told myself at ERS that, fair being fair, I should spend some time in the (AMS) to see what it is really all about,” he said.

He said AMS has many programs that are funded by user fees, keeping the agency tuned to he needs of the industry.

“Every day, people make that business decision, and that is a good framework against which anything we might do in the future,” he said.

The expansion of AMS inspection services into the food safety arena appears to be getting some traction, he said.

“We have been doing things with good agricultural practices for a handful of years, and that is found to be of some benefit,” he said. “We continue to look for ways to be helpful to folks. We have a long heritage of doing that, and I would hope a long future of doing that as well.”

AMS administrator steps down after 20 years
Ken Clayton