Lobbyist picked to lead Senate Ag committee as it rewrites nutrition programs

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2015 - A top lobbyist for food and beverage giant PepsiCo Inc. who was formerly a top aide to Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts is taking over as the Agriculture Committee's chief of staff as it prepares to rewrite federal child nutrition policy.

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Joel Leftwich, a native of Wellington, Kansas, worked for Roberts, R-Kan., as deputy staff director for the committee before becoming senior director for PepsiCo's public policy and government affairs team in March 2013.

One of the committee's main orders of business this year will be to reauthorize the law that sets standards for school meals and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The programs have a broad impact on the food and beverage industry. First lady Michelle Obama has made it a top priority to preserve higher school nutrition standards that USDA imposed under the expiring law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

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Leftwich has worked off and on for Roberts since 2005. He served as congressional liaison in USDA's Office of Congressional Relations for a year during the George W. Bush administration and then spent five and a half years as a legislative assistant to Roberts before joining DuPont for three months in 2010 as program manager for the company's government affairs team. He left DuPont to return to work for Roberts on the Senate committee staff.

Sarah Little, who has worked for Roberts for 16 years, will be the committee's communications director while continuing in the same role in the senator's personal office. The committee staff also will include Wayne Stoskopf, who has been Roberts' legislative assistant on agriculture, nutrition and water issues since June 2012. He previously worked for Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., handling agriculture policy, and was a field director in Kansas for Sen. Jerry Moran's 2010 campaign.

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