Mary Kay Thatcher is retiring from the American Farm Bureau Federation at the end of the month after serving AFBF for 31 years. The Iowa native currently serves as senior director of congressional relations at AFBF, where she primarily lobbies on farm programs, crop insurance, conservation and credit issues. Prior to joining AFBF, the Iowa State alum served as a legislative assistant to GOP Sen. Roger Jepsen of Iowa. Thatcher grew up on a 500-acre beef, hay and corn farm and now manages a farm in Iowa producing corn and soybeans, as well as a cow/calf operation.

Delegates to AFBF’s convention also chose their leaders for the next year or two. For starters, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal were re-elected to two-year terms. Bryan Searle, president of Idaho Farm Bureau, and Ron Gibson, president of Utah Farm Bureau, were elected to two-year terms on the AFBF board of directors, representing the Western Region. Hans McPherson, president of Montana Farm Bureau, was elected to a one-year term, representing the Western Region. Rodd Moesel, president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, was elected to a one-year term, representing the Southern Region.

Twelve other state Farm Bureau presidents were re-elected to two-year terms to represent their regions on the board: Carl Bednarski, Michigan; Jim Holte, Wisconsin; Blake Hurst, Missouri; and Steve Nelson, Nebraska (Midwest Region); Mark Haney, Kentucky; John Hoblick, Florida; Harry Ott, South Carolina; Jimmy Parnell, Alabama; Wayne Pryor, Virginia; and Randy Veach, Arkansas (Southern Region); and Rick Ebert, Pennsylvania and Ryck Suydam, New Jersey (Northeast Region)… Russell Kohler of Utah was elected the new chair of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee for a one-year term, which makes him a member of the AFBF board of directors. Elected to two-year terms on the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee were Cindy Ramsey, Indiana; Jennifer Cross, Maryland; and Lou Nave, Tennessee. Lillian Ostendorf of Montana was re-elected to a two-year term on the committee.

AFBF presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to Sen. James Inhofe, and its Founders Award to West Texas cotton and grain farmer Kenneth Dierschke.  Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, is an eight-time recipient of AFBF’s Friend of Farm Bureau Award whose “commitment to protecting landowners’ property rights, preserving our natural resources, and reining in federal regulatory overreach has brought relief to farmers and ranchers across our nation,” the Farm Bureau said. Dierschke, a former Texas Farm Bureau president and AFBF board member, has served as a Farm Bureau leader for more than 50 years … Some other award winners at the AFBF convention: Russell and Amelia Kent of Louisiana won the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award. Martha Smith of Colorado took home the Discussion Meet award and Greg and Rose Hartschuh of Ohio won the Excellence in Agriculture Award. Click here for a more detailed description of the awards, prizes and second- and third-place award winners.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is getting two new members: Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. Smith recently took over the Senate seat previously held by Al Franken, who resigned.

Melissa Kessler is starting a new role at the U.S. Grains Council. Formerly the Council’s director of communications, Kessler is now director of strategic relations. In the new job she’ll be working to “strengthen relationships with Council supporters and domestic and international partners through strategic communications and awareness of Council programs.” Kessler says the search is on for her successor as director of communications.

The Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research named Jeff Rosichan as director of its Crops of the Future Collaborative. Made up of eight partner organizations and administered by FFAR, the Collaborative funds research to accelerate development of crops that benefit humanity by increasing understanding of the relationship between crop traits, the underlying biology of these traits, and the environment. Most recently, Rosichan founded a consulting company to support agriculture startup companies. He previously spent six years at Dow AgroSciences.

President Trump plans to nominate Holly Greaves, a former accountant at KPMG, to be EPA’s chief financial officer. Greaves is currently the agency’s senior adviser for budget and audit. The president is also tapping Anne Marie White, who founded the consulting firm Bastet Technical Services, to be DOE's assistant secretary for environmental management, which is charged with managing the agency's complex nuclear waste cleanup efforts; and Marco Rajkovich to chair the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Rajkovich is an attorney with Rajkovich, Williams, Kilpatrick & True in Kentucky, which has a specialty in mine safety law.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has inducted two former employees into the NASS Hall of Fame. Alonzo Drain was honored for, among other things, broadening opportunities for minorities and women within NASS. William E. Kibler was recognized as a “visionary leader” who made innovative decisions during a time of generational change, budget and weather challenges, and advancing computer capacity.

Todd Campbell, a research geneticist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center in Florence, S.C., is the recipient of the National Cotton Council’s 2017 Cotton Genetics Research Award. Campbell, whose cotton breeding efforts have focused on cotton genetic resources, climate resiliency, and germplasm enhancement, led the development and release of 10 high quality cotton germplasm lines, four randomly mated cotton populations, and 16 cotton germplasm lines.

Western Growers has hired Devorah Allen as a Human Resources and Learning Development consultant. In this role, she’ll be developing and implementing new training programs for Western Growers University, the association’s employee training program, to educate agriculture business owners and their workforce on topics such as HR and employment law, and leadership and supervisory skills. She most recently served as director of learning and development for SkyOne Federal Credit Union.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture named Julie Oberg as its deputy secretary of agriculture. She replaces Jim Eichhorst, who has accepted the position of state executive director for Maryland with USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Oberg has been with the State of Maryland since 2004, most recently serving as communications director for the Department of Agriculture.

ING Wholesale Banking has appointed Deborah Perkins as global head of Food & Agribusiness within its Industry Lending business. Before joining ING, she was managing director of Rabobank's Dallas Corporate Banking Office, where she also served as the regional sector head of dairy for North America. Prior to that, Perkins spent nine years leading Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research teams in the Americas and Australia and New Zealand.

Greg Ferrara was promoted to executive vice president of advocacy, public relations and member services at the National Grocers Association, which represents the independent supermarket industry. He’s been with NGA since 2008, most recently serving as vice president for government affairs. Click here to see a list of other promotions and new hires by the association.

JBS USA has named veteran food industry executive Thomas Lopez as president of its Plumrose USA consumer-ready pork business. The West Point grad previously held senior positions at Kraft Foods and the Kraft-Heinz Food Co., most recently as president of the Beverages and Snacks Division. The Illinois native also holds a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Missouri at Rolla.

The Montana farming community is mourning the passing of Charlene Rich, who died Jan. 4 at the age of 66. She’d been suffering from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Rich grew up on her family’s farm near Sand Springs, Montana, and had successful careers with Montana State University Extension, the Montana Beef Council and the Northern Ag Network.

Julius Wall, a former president of Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Mexico, died Jan. 2, in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 83. A lawyer, Wall was a DU volunteer and sponsor for more than four decades, serving as president of Ducks Unlimited from 1998-2000 and as head of DU Mexico from 2005-2007. In 2002, Ducks Unlimited dedicated the President’s Marsh, a 600-acre wetland complex that is part of Missouri’s 14,000-acre Four Rivers Conservation Area, to DU past presidents and Missouri natives Wall, Louis Egan and S. Preston Williams.