Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue could soon have another key member of his leadership team officially on board. The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday holds a hearing on the nomination of Stephen Vaden to serve as USDA’s general counsel. Vaden, a lawyer who previously practiced with Patton Boggs and Jones Day, has been serving as acting general counsel at USDA since January. The committee will also consider the nomination of Glen Smith to be a member of the Farm Credit Administration Board. A corn and soybean farmer, Smith is also president and co-owner of Smith Land Service, an Iowa company that focuses on farm management, land appraisal and farmland brokerage services.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation has hired Lisa Benson as its first executive director. Benson had been serving as director of Rural Development for the American Farm Bureau Federation since 2014.

Rep. Lamar Smith says he’s retiring from the House after his term ends next year. The Republican, who has represented the 21st Congressional District in Texas since 1987, will give up his seat after completing his six-year term as chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Smith says he hopes to find other ways to stay involved in politics.

Ben Harrison was installed as chairman of the National Chicken Council during NCC’s 63rd annual conference last week in Washington, D.C. Harrison is president and CEO of Amick Farms, of Batesburg, South Carolina, and Hurlock, Maryland. Other new officers include Vice Chairman Mark Kaminsky, COO at Koch Foods, in Park Ridge, Illinois; and Secretary-Treasurer Clint Rivers, president and CEO of Wayne Farms in Oakwood, Georgia. Mike Brown, of Vienna, Virginia, was elected to a sixth term as president of NCC. Officers serve one-year terms.

The National Corn Growers Association named Katherine Emerson as its new director of public policy and political strategy. Emerson formerly was director of strategic partnerships at the World Food Program USA. Before that, she spent almost eight years as manager of government affairs for Monsanto, in its D.C. office.

The Farm Credit Administration named Toni DeLancey as its new deputy director for the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs. She succeeds Christine Quinn, who will retire at the end of March 2018. From 2005 to 2017, the West Point grad held communications and leadership positions in both the Department of the Army and the U.S. Postal Service. Before that, she worked in broadcast journalism as a television news anchor, reporter, and producer at stations throughout the country, including the Fox News bureau in Washington.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation elected Dennis Stiffler as its chairman for the coming year. Stiffler has 30 years of experience in the industry, including his present job as president of the Texas Division of Atlanta-based Halpern’s Steak and Seafood. Smithfield Foods’ Conley Nelson, a past president of the National Pork Board, is the new chair-elect. Idaho cattle feeder Cevin Jones is the new vice chair, and Pat Binger, with the Cargill Protein Group, is secretary-treasurer. The new slate was elected last week at USMEF’s Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson, Arizona.

Abhi Rahman has joined the staff of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., as communications director. The former yoga instructor had been serving as press secretary to Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.

Ellen Herbst, the Commerce Department’s CFO and assistant secretary for administration, is retiring from federal service. As of Nov. 27, she’ll be vice chancellor for administration and finance for the University System of Maryland.

John Hoblick has been re-elected as president of the Florida Farm Bureau. The Volusia County foliage producer has served as the organization’s chief executive since 2006. Hoblick began his involvement with Farm Bureau nearly three decades ago as the leader of what is now known as the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group.

Hugh Topper, vice president of fresh foods for the H-E-B Grocery Co., will be honored with United Fresh Produce Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its Foundation Gala Dinner in San Diego on Jan. 16. Topper is retiring at the end of the year after 35 years in the produce industry, 26 years with H-E-B.

McDonald’s has hired John Monsif as director of U.S. government relations in its Washington, D.C., office. The University of Virginia alum is a former chief of staff to U.S. Reps. John Delaney, D-Md., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. He joins the fast-food giant from the child advocacy group First Focus.

Yang Yang, a Dow AgroSciences research scientist specializing in plant sensing technology, has been named director of digital phenomics at Purdue University. In the newly created position, Yang will be responsible for managing Purdue’s expanding phenomics research staff and infrastructure as well as developing computational systems and tools that enable researchers to overcome challenges in the emerging field of high-throughput phenotyping. Yang will start at Purdue on Jan. 3.

John B. Lewis, who is credited with helping to restore the wild turkey population to every one of Missouri’s 114 counties, died on Oct. 31 at the age of 90. Lewis spent almost four decades as a wildlife research biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. His contributions included creating habitats for the native wild turkey throughout the state, resulting in the establishment of both fall and spring hunting seasons.