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Ezra Taft Benson | 1960

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

1899-1994 | Artist: (William) Dean Fausett (1913-1998)

Impact & Accomplishments

Born on a farm in Whitney, Idaho, Ezra Taft Benson completed his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and earned a master’s degree from Iowa State University. Back in Idaho, he became a county extension agent and state extension specialist. He also founded a farmer’s cooperative.

In 1939, Benson moved to Washington, D.C., to become Executive Secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. President Eisenhower named him Secretary of Agriculture in 1953. He served the president during both terms, even though he opposed many of the administration’s policies, including price supports for farmers. Two significant accomplishments during his tenure as Secretary were the extension of Social Security to farmers and the enactment of the overseas food assistance program, “Food for Peace.”

When Secretary Benson left office, he focused his attention on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he was an Apostle. He became President of the Church in 1985. In 1975, Brigham Young University established the Benson Agriculture & Food Institute in his name. Its mission is to teach village farm families in developing countries how to become nutritionally self-sufficient.

Did You Know?

Benson was the oldest of eleven children. He was the great-grandson of Ezra T. Benson, who was appointed by Brigham Young as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1846.

On July 10, 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the legislation that would eventually become known as the Food for Peace Act. As a result, the Food for Peace program has been bringing help and hope to the far reaches of the world for more than 60 years - reaching more than 4 billion hungry people since its inception.

Courtesy of USAID Office

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