Mary Kay Thatcher launches her next career, as senior lead for federal government relations with Syngenta. Thatcher starts the new job in mid-February. She announced in early January that she planned to retire from the American Farm Bureau Federation at the end of the month, after working for AFBF for 31 years, most recently as senior director of congressional relations.

Dana Brooks is the next CEO at Pet Food Institute. Brooks most recently served as the senior director of government affairs for Land O’Lakes Inc. Prior to that, Brooks held the positions of corporate adviser of government affairs for Elanco and senior vice president of government relations for the National Milk Producers Federation. Brooks begins the new job Feb. 26, succeeding Cathleen Enright, who will serve as past president until June 30, before retiring.

The National Wildlife Federation named Laura Daniel Davis as its vice president for conservation strategy. Davis joins NWF with more than two decades of public policy and government experience focused on conservation and natural resource issues. That includes serving as chief of staff to Interior Secretaries Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell and in a variety of leadership roles at Interior under Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Most recently, Davis led the Heritage Outdoors Project of the Resources Legacy Fund, which works with conservation organizations to preserve and protect public lands and wildlife. 

The Senate confirmed R.D. James, a farmer and manager of cotton gins and grain elevators based in Madrid, Missouri, as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, a position that oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. James, who holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Kentucky, is a long-time member of the Mississippi River Commission, which is charged with promoting commerce on the waterway and preventing destructive floods.

President Trump announced two nominations to the Federal Trade Commission. Christine S. Wilson of Virginia is an antitrust and consumer protection practitioner currently serving as senior vice president for regulatory and international affairs at Delta Air Lines. The White House says Wilson believes strongly that “competition, not regulation, is the best protection for consumers and the strongest prescription for a healthy economy.” Trump is also tapping Noah Joshua Phillips of Maryland for a seat on the commission. Phillips currently serves as chief counsel to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

James Carstensen has left the House of Representatives for a job as federal government affairs manager with DuPont. The University of Iowa grad had been a House staffer for more than 20 years, most recently as chief of staff for Rep. David Young, R-Iowa. Taking over for Carstensen in Young’s office is Jake Olson, who had been the congressman’s legislative director.

Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio has resigned from the board of Food Policy Action. Colicchio co-founded the organization in 2012 “to fight for policies that make healthy, affordable, ethically sourced food available to all.” He says he plans to continue that work but doesn’t say in what capacity, although he rules out running for office.

Jay Stieber, executive vice president and general counsel of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, has been sworn in as chairman of the National Restaurant Association board of directors. The new vice chairman is Joe Essa, president and CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide. In addition, Sam Facchini, co-founder and co-owner and operator of Metro Pizza, will serve as chair of the NRA Educational Foundation, with Geoff Hill, managing director of Roark Capital Group, as his vice chair.

The Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas last week honored Sen. Pat Roberts with a citation for Distinguished Statesmanship at the group’s Centennial Banquet in Topeka. Roberts is the longest serving member of Congress from Kansas and is the only member of Congress in history to serve as both chairman of the House and Senate Agriculture committees.

Tracy Grondine is the new Director of Consumer Health and Media Relations for the U.S. Apple Association. Previously, she was at the American Farm Bureau Federation, Edison Electric and the Retirement Security Initiative.

Jeremy Barnum, who joined the National Park Service in 2015 as a public affairs specialist, has been named the agency's chief spokesman and chief of public affairs. The position has been vacant since September, when Tom Crosson left for a job at the Defense Department. Before joining the Park Service, Barnum served as a foreign service officer with the State Department, working at U.S. embassies in New Delhi, Helsinki and Quito, Ecuador.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week appointed three individuals to three-year terms on the board of directors of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. Jeremy Geske, of New Prague, Minn., and Brenda Reau, of Petersburg, Mich., will be representing producers while Steve W. Lewis, from Artesia, N.M., is an expert in marketing … Perdue also named five new members to the American Lamb Board. They are: Sally J. Scholle, a producer, Littlestown, Pa.; David Quam, producer, San Angelo, Texas; Peter J. Camino, a feeder, Buffalo, Wyo.; Elizabeth A.W. Dressler, first handler, Parker, Colo.; and Greg Deakin, seedstock producer, Cuba, Ill.

Glen Smith, the newly confirmed member of the Farm Credit Administration board, named Jim Morris as his executive assistant and counsel. Morris joined FCA’s Office of the General Counsel as an attorney before serving as executive assistant and counsel to Nancy Pellett, who was then FCA chairman and CEO. In 2006, he became the general counsel of the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation, where he served until his retirement from federal service in 2013

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., hired Dean Peterson as his new chief of staff. Peterson spent the past eight years working as executive director, communications, with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He also has some 20 years’ experience on Capitol Hill, including 17 years as chief of staff to retired Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.

The U.S. Apple Association has chosen its 2018 class of Young Apple Leaders who will be in Washington on March 15 as part of U.S. Apple’s Capitol Hill Day. The young leaders – all growers or involved in apple-related businesses – will be meeting with members of Congress to discuss hard-hitting issues affecting the future of the apple industry. Click here to see a list of the Young Apple Leaders. 

Clare Reichenbach has been named CEO of the James Beard Foundation, effective Feb. 20. She previously had her own consulting firm and has held high level positions with BBC Worldwide and AMC Networks. She replaces Susan Ungaro, who stepped down as president of the New York City-based culinary arts organization at the end of 2017.

The National Ice Cream Mix Association elected Bob Kmetz, general manager of Prairie Farms Dairy in Granite City, Illinois, to lead the organization for the next two years. He succeeds Pat Galloway of Classic Mix Partners, in Neenah, Wis. NICMA’s new vice president is David Catalana, vice president of sales for Cumberland Dairy in Rosenhayn, N.J. Ron Mong, senior manager/dairy consulting for Herbein + Co. in Reading, Pa., was re-elected treasurer. The elections took place in mid-January at NICMA’s annual meeting at the Lago Mar Resort & Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Cibus, a plant breeding company with facilities in San Diego, St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Netherlands, has appointed Noel Sauer to its scientific management team as vice president of research. Cibus said that Sauer, who founded the company’s technology development team and previously served as director of technology, now leads Cibus’ research efforts in developing commercially relevant traits, including disease resistance and healthier oils, in a variety of plants such as canola, rice, flax and potato.

Hance Scarborough LLP has added Damon Wells to its lobbying team as a senior policy adviser. He previously spent seven years as senior vice president of government relations at the National Turkey Federation. Before that Wells worked for a year as senior professional staff with the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Members of the Transportation, Elevator and Grain Merchants Association have elected Roger Fray, the chief commodity marketing officer for Landus Cooperative in Ames, Iowa, as their new chairman. Scott Mills, executive vice president-North America, Lansing Trade Group, is the new first vice chairman, and Terry McDermott, director of supply chain, Bunge North America, is second vice chairman. The voting took place at the TEGMA’s annual meeting last week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Ed Lorenzen, who spent two decades on Capitol Hill, as an aide to then-Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Texas and to Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, died Friday along with his four-year-old son Michael as fire swept through their home in Coventry, R.I. A family friend told the Boston Globe that Lorenzen was found with Michael in his arms, apparently trying to save the child in a final act of bravery. Lorenzen was a senior adviser for the D.C.-based non-profit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee, said Lorenzen’s coworkers were “stunned and heartbroken.” She said Lorenzen was a “brilliant budget mind – his guidance and expertise is a void that cannot be filled. He could recite budget law like a poet.”

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