Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant selected state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to succeed Republican Thad Cochran in the U.S. Senate. The 80-year-old Cochran, who chairs the Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Agriculture Committee, is resigning his seat April 1 due to ill health. There will be a special election Nov. 6 to permanently fill the position. While Cochran has endorsed Hyde-Smith, who co-chaired Donald Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee during the presidential campaign, she will be challenged in that election by Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly defeated Cochran in a 2014 primary with a tea party-fueled campaign. McDaniel last week released an open letter signed by more than 100 GOP supporters asking Trump “not to lend your name to a candidate that is likely to lose,” citing Hyde-Smith’s past as a Democrat in the highly conservative state. Hyde-Smith served for years in the state Senate as a Democrat, before switching parties in 2010 in advance of her first run for ag commissioner. In addition to McDaniel, Hyde-Smith will face former U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, a Democrat who served as USDA secretary in the Clinton administration. Mississippi special elections are not partisan, meaning all candidates run in a general election setting. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held three weeks later.

And how about a toast for good luck to Ramsey Cox, who’s leaving Capitol Hill after three years with Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., most recently as communications director. Her new job, which she starts in April: director of media relations and public affairs for the Beer Institute.

Ken McFarlane was named the new chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, succeeding Gordon Wenk, who is now the state’s ag director. That position became empty recently when Jamie Clover Adams left Michigan for the USDA in Washington, where she’s now an adviser to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue in the farm production and conservation mission areas.

The White House says President Trump plans to nominate William Charles McIntosh to be an assistant administrator of the EPA. Early in his career, McIntosh served as environmental and natural resources adviser to then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan. He later became deputy director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In the second half of his career he worked for the Ford Motor Co., where he was responsible for environmental permitting, compliance, and environmental metrics improvements at company manufacturing facilities.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar named Robert R. Redfield, M.D., as the 18th director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Redfield has been a public health leader actively engaged in clinical research and care of chronic human viral infections and infectious diseases, especially HIV, for more than 30 years. Azar specifically cited Redfield’s two-decade tenure at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where he made “pioneering contributions to advance our understanding of HIV/AIDS.”  He also noted that Redfield’s more recent work running a treatment network in Baltimore for HIV and hepatitis C patients has prepared him to “hit the ground running on one of HHS and CDC’s top priorities, combating the opioid epidemic.” Azar also thanked Dr. Anne Suchat for her service as acting director at CDC,

The New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra is looking for a new CEO to replace Theo Spierings, who plans to step down before year’s end. The announcement came as New Zealand’s biggest company announced a $348 million loss for the six-month period ending in September.

Darwin “Duke” Sand was named the next president and CEO of Seaboard Foods LLC, succeeding Terry Holton, who recently announced his retirement. Sand joined the Merriam, Kan.-based company in 1996 and is credited with building Seaboard Foods' reputation as a leading U.S. pork exporter. Prior to becoming the company’s senior vice president of sales in 2011, he ran Seaboard’s pork export business as vice president of international sales

Members of the National Grain and Feed Association last week elected Eric Wilkey, president of Arizona Grain Co., as the new chairman of the NGFA board of directors. The election took place at the group’s annual convention in Scottsdale, Ariz. Also elected were David Baudler, managing director for grain with Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain North America, as first vice chairman, and JoAnn Brouillette, president of Demeter LP in Fowler, Ind., as second vice chairman. Click here to see members elected to three-year term on the board, and board members elected to serve on the NGFA Executive Committee for the coming year.

The National Corn Growers Association promoted Nick Goeser to the position of vice president of production and sustainability. Goeser had been serving as the director of the Soil Health Partnership, an NCGA initiative, since its inception in 2014. The program’s goal is to quantify the benefits of soil health-promoting practices from an economic as well as environmental standpoint, showing farmers how healthy soil benefits their bottom line. It currently has more than 100 farms enrolled in a dozen states … In other SHP staff changes, former Eastern Iowa Field Manager Elyssa McFarland was promoted to a new position, key relationships director. Jack Cornell was promoted to field team director from his former position of operations manager, and program coordinator Anne Dietz was promoted to SHP project manager.

Mark Hudson is the new executive director of the Ag Container Recycling Council, succeeding Ron Perkins, who retired last month after leading the council for the past 10 years. Hudson previously was general manager at Tri Rinse Inc. in Saint Louis, with business units including seed bin management, formulation and packaging, industrial tank cleaning and container recycling. ACRC was founded in 1992 to support the needs of the U.S. crop protection industry to recycle pesticide containers..

Arkansas FFA member Noah Davis continues with his strong showing on ABC’s American Idol. After Sunday and Monday’s competition, Davis, who won the 2017 National FFA Talent Competition, found himself in the show’s top 50 contestants who are moving on to next weekend’s showcase, when the competitors will be cut to 24. The show’s website says his performance of “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J wasn’t as great as his audition, but it was still pretty solid. “He’s an entertainer,” the website said.