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Allan Mustard
It was about the most emotional thing that has happened to me in my career, meeting those widows and hearing their gratitude.

Profile: Allan Mustard

Minister- Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India

Doing whatever is needed without waiting for someone to tell you to do it—no matter how distasteful the job—is a valuable lesson learned by agricultural and consumer economics graduate Allan Mustard growing up on the farm. Allan has worked for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U. S. Embassy for the past twenty years, currently as the Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the embassy in New Delhi. His career has taken him to over 50 countries, primarily in Europe and the Middle East.

“My professional concentration has been the former Soviet Union, since I speak fluent Russian,” Allan says. “I was posted to Moscow twice, once when it was the capital of the USSR and again after an independent Russia. I was also stationed in Istanbul, where I covered Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. While in Vienna, I covered Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Finally, I have worked in Mexico City and now New Delhi, where I cover India, Sir Lanka, and Bangladesh.”

Allan’s responsibilities gave him a front row seat to the collapse of the former Soviet Union. As the primary planner of former Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan’s mission to the USSR, he worked on interagency policies, implementation of the largest food aid package at the time since World War II, and formidable technical assistance. One project involved privatizing grain trading that was formerly dominated by the state monopoly. Through a cooperative agreement with the University of Illinois, Allan hired trade expert Lowell Hill of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. Hill led a training effort to strengthen the private grain trading companies so the government monopoly could be eliminated. Twenty years later, the grain trade remains private and is very prosperous.

“I have been part of a lot of experiences over the years that were either interesting or had an impact, but perhaps the most satisfying was the food aid to Bosnia in the wake of the Balkan wars of the 1990s,” Allan says.”

The USDA partnered with private charities to deliver food aid in a way that would generate economic activity and revive villages and small towns. Nearly all families were headed by widows whose husbands and eldest sons had been murdered in the “ethnic cleansing” led by Slobodan Milosevic. The USDA program provided job training as well as microloans for starting businesses so the women could become independent.

“A year after the program started,” Allan says, “Catholic Relief Services asked me to stop by the town of Visoko during my next trip so I could meet some of the widows, who wanted to thank the USDA.

“It was about the most emotional thing that has happened to me in my career, meeting those widows and hearing their gratitude. Knowing what they and their children had been through, I was deeply humbled and also grateful for the opportunity the USDA had given me to help them. We take a lot for granted in America.”