Obama taps Tonsager to lead Farm Credit

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2016 - A longtime ally of the Obama administration has been chosen as the new chairman and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration.

President Barack Obama appointed Dallas Tonsager to the position last week but the selection was announced today. Tonsager, who was appointed to the FCA board last year, replaces Kenneth Spearman, who has held the job since March 2015.

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Tonsager is currently board chairman of Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation. He previously served on the boards of FCA and FCSIC from 2004 to 2009 during the George W. Bush administration.

Tonsager was also the USDA's under secretary for Rural Development during Obama's first term, but resigned that post in early 2013. Before that, he co-chaired the department's transition committee in 2009 after co-chairing Obama's first farm and rural campaign committee in 2008.

Tonsager's term as FCA chairman and CEO expires in 2020. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the incoming Trump administration will not have an opportunity to name a chairman until then. Trump, however, will have the chance to fill a seat on the board to replace Spearman. That appointee will require Senate confirmation.

A native of South Dakota and 1976 graduate of South Dakota State University, Tonsager was president of  the state Farmers Union from 1988-1993 and state director of rural development from 1993-2001 during the Bill Clinton administration.

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Tonsager has also been a member of the advisory board of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the executive director of the South Dakota Value-Added Agriculture Development Center.

The lame duck appointment by Obama is similar to the approach used by the Bush administration in 2008. In May of that year, Bush appointed Illinois native Leland Strom as FCA chair and CEO. He remained in that capacity until Obama named Jill Long Thompson to the same role in November 2012.

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