Iowa ag Secretary Bill Northey was finally confirmed by the Senate Tuesday as USDA’s undersecretary for farm programs after Sen. Ted Cruz dropped a hold on the nomination he’d kept for four months in a dispute over biofuel policy. The move may free USDA to announce other political appointments for offices like the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency (RMA). Sources tell Agri-Pulse that Martin Barbre, a former National Corn Growers Association president who farms in Illinois, has been tapped to lead RMA.

Jamie Clover Adams, the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, is heading to D.C. to start a new job at USDA. Clover Adams will be an adviser to Secretary Sonny Perdue in the Farm Production and Conservation mission area, which now houses the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency. Clover Adams will step down from the Michigan post on March 3. She was appointed in 2012, the first woman to hold the position. She’s being replaced by Gordon Wenk, MDARD’s chief deputy director.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the nomination of Sean Cairncross of Minnesota to be CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Cairncross currently serves as a deputy assistant to the president and senior advisor to the chief of staff. Before joining the White House, Cairncross was the chief operating officer of the Republican National Committee for the 2016 election cycle. He is married to Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. The MCC is an independent government agency working to reduce global poverty through economic growth.

Congratulations to Laura Wood Peterson, who’s been promoted to head, federal government and industry relations at Syngenta. Peterson, a Kansas State alum who also holds a law degree from George Washington University Law School, has been serving as the company’s head of federal government relations since 2014. In addition, Ariel Wiegard is joining Peterson’s team. She formerly worked for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The National Corn Growers Association promoted Nick Goeser to the position of vice president of production and sustainability. Goeser has been serving as NCGA’s director of soil health. Before joining NCGA, Goeser worked for Monsanto as a technology development representative.

Suzanne Palmieri has joined George Washington University’s Food Institute as a Senior Fellow, after spending the last year as minister counselor for agriculture at the U.S. Mission for the United Nations in Rome. Palmieri has years of experience on Capitol Hill and at USDA, including stints as associate administrator with the department’s Foreign Agricultural Service and chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy Secretary.

Jenny Lester Moffitt was sworn in recently as undersecretary in the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She’d been the agency’s deputy secretary since 2015. A former education, outreach and research specialist at American Farmland Trust, Moffitt worked as managing director at Dixon Ridge Farms from 2005 to 2015.

Members of The Fertilizer Institute have elected five new members to three-year terms on TFI’s board of directors. They are: Nick Adamchak, with Pursell Agri-Tech LLC; Van Cooper, Pinnacle Operating Corp.; Josh Long, American Plant Food Corp.; Hugh Loomans, Sylvite Sales Inc.; and Lyndon Smith, Bio Huma Netics Inc. The board is chaired by Nutrien President and CEO Chuck Magro.

The American Soybean Association has announced the regional winners of its 2018 Conservation Legacy Awards. Mark Schleisman of Lake City, Iowa, took the prize for the Midwest Region; David and Linda Burrier, of Union Bridge, Md., won for the Northeast Region; and Grant Norwood of Mansfield, Tenn., was tops in the South Region. The winners are being recognized tonight at ASA’s Awards Banquet at Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California. During the banquet, one of the farmers will be chosen as the national winner. A national selection committee, composed of soybean farmers, conservationists, agronomists and natural resource professionals, picked the regional winners based on their environmental and economic programs.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has named 157 producers and six importers to serve one-year terms on the 2018 National Pork Producers Delegate Body. Click here to see who’s on the list. “These appointees represent a cross section of great experience in the pork industry and I know they will help us better meet the needs of our American pork producers,” Perdue said… The USDA chief has also appointed or reappointed 30 members to serve three-year terms on the National Potato Promotion Board. Check out the list of members by clicking here.

C. Brooks Hurst is the new president of the Missouri Soybean Association. Hurst, who farms in Atchison County, was elected during the association’s recent meeting in Jefferson City and installed for a one-year term this week at the Commodity Classic in Anaheim. The MSA leadership team also includes Vice-President Ronnie Russell, Secretary Matt Wright and Treasurer Renee Fordyce.

The James Beard Foundation has chosen chef José Andrés as the recipient of its Humanitarian of the Year award. In addition to his career as a chef, Andrés is the founder of World Central Kitchen, which aims to provide solutions to global hunger and poverty issues. The Foundation also considered Andrés' relief efforts last year in Puerto Rico and Houston following Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, as well as after wildfires in California.

Casey Creamer joined Citrus Mutual this week as the organization’s executive vice president. Creamer is a former senior executive for the Kings River Water Quality Coalition and vice president with the California Cotton Ginners & Growers. CCM is an advocacy organization representing 2,500 California citrus growers.

John Pagel, the CEO of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, in Kewaunee County, Wis., was killed Feb. 22 when the small plane he was traveling on crashed northwest of Indianapolis. Two others who were on board – Pagel’s son-in-law, Steve Witcpalek, and the pilot, Nathan Saari – also died in the crash. Pagel was also president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. Police said the plane was flying from Indianapolis to Green Bay, Wis. The Pagel family manages about 8,500 acres and milks 5,300 cows. They also have a farm in Kansas that milks about 4,500 cows. The family operation began in Wisconsin 72 years ago with fewer than 10 cows, a handful of hogs and some chickens. In 2003, Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy was named Innovative Dairy Farm of the Year by the International Dairy Foods Association and Dairy Herd Management.