Gina Sheets, a former Indiana director of agriculture under then-Governor Mike Pence, has been appointed to the new position of chief innovation officer in USDA’s Rural Development office. Sheets will oversee the creation and management of the Rural Development Innovation Center, a team working to strengthen the delivery of RD tools. Anne Hazlett, who runs the RD office, also named Marie Wheat as RD’s director of external affairs. Wheat is currently a USDA economist and manager of the department’s BioPreferred Program. The women start their new jobs Nov. 27.

Devin Mogler left his job as legislative assistant to Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to start up a government relations presence in D.C. for Omaha-based ethanol producer Green Plains. With Ernst, the Iowa State alum handled ag and biofuels policy for the better part of three years. Michael Dolch will be taking over the ag portfolio, starting the first week in January.

Darci Vetter, former chief ag negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, has signed on with Farmers for Free Trade (FFT) as an adviser to the non-profit’s board. Vetter, currently diplomat in residence with the University of Nebraska, has also held senior positions with USDA and the Senate Finance Committee … FFT has also retained the agricultural consulting firm K·Coe Isom and the international affairs firm World Strategies LLC to advance its mission of expanding trade among farmers and ranchers and in rural America. Brian Kuehl, head of federal affairs at K·Coe Isom, will serve as FFT’s executive director, while K·Coe Isom’s federal affairs director in Washington, Ryan Stroschein, will assist in day-to-day management of D.C. operations. Policy and grassroots advocacy will be led by World Strategies based in Bentonville, Ark. In that effort, Angela Marshall Hofmann will serve as deputy director and Jennifer Spall, director of state and local advocacy. FFT, co-chaired by former Senators Max Baucus and Richard Lugar, is focused on driving global competitiveness for the U.S. agriculture industry and supporting jobs that depend on agricultural trade.

Jill McCluskey, former president of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association, has been appointed to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR). McCluskey is currently a professor at Washington State University. Also appointed to BANR: Shane Burgess, University of Arizona; James Famiglietti, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cal Tech; Douglas Jackson-Smith, Ohio State University; Jan Leach, Colorado State University; and Karen Plaut, Purdue University. The board will hold its fall meeting Nov. 27-28 at the main NAS building in Washington.

Aline DeLucia was named associate director for public policy with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. She previously served as a manager of federal government relations for Syngenta where she was responsible for advancing the company’s legislative advocacy for crop protection and biotechnology. DeLucia has three master’s degrees related to agricultural science and business, from Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Florida.

Eric Trachtenberg joined Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent foreign aid agency, as a senior director and leader of the agriculture and land practice group. He previously worked at McLarty Associates where he was director, food and agriculture. He also previously worked for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Brian Steed was named acting director of the Bureau Land Management. In early October Steed left the office of Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, to become deputy director for programs and policy at BLM. Steed had been Stewart’s chief of staff since 2013.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., has a new press secretary. She’s Breanna Deutsch, who had been working as a communications director in the House of Representatives.

Randy Fry, data process and information systems manager with Ceres Solutions Cooperative, was honored with AgGateway’s Ron Storms Leadership Award at the organization’s recent annual conference. The award – the organization’s top honor – recognizes repeated, outstanding efforts by ab AgGateway volunteer member in promoting collaboration among AgGateway teams and advancing initiatives to enable eConnectivity. Click here to see details about others honored at AgGateway’s conference. AgGateway is a nonprofit consortium of businesses serving the agriculture industry, with the mission to promote, enable and expand eBusiness in agriculture.

Glen R. Smith is one step closer to a seat on the board of the Farm Credit Administration. The Senate Agriculture Committee last week approved his nomination and the matter is now before the full Senate. Smith and his wife Fauzan own and operate a corn and soybean farm in western Iowa. They also own a land acquisition/exchange company.

Tom Burke of Platte City, Missouri, was selected as the 2017 inductee into Saddle & Sirloin Club’s Portrait Gallery. The gallery recognizes individuals for exceptional service to the livestock industry. Burke is a former Angus Association board member and a lifelong Angus sales manager. The gallery includes 354 portraits of livestock industry leaders, which are on permanent display at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center in Louisville.