Cassie Bladow is returning to the office of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., this time as chief of staff. The North Dakota State alum has been serving as vice president at the U.S. Beet Sugar Association. Before that, Bladow handled agriculture, transportation and public land policy for Hoeven for nearly five years, helping to pass the 2014 farm bill. Bladow starts the new job April 9. She’s replacing Ryan Bernstein, who started working for Hoeven in 2000. According to Hoeven’s office, Bernstein is leaving to join McGuireWoods Consulting as a senior vice president, lobbying on energy and agriculture issues.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) says Sonny Ramaswamy, currently the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will assume the role of president and CEO of NWCCU in July. Ramaswamy was appointed to the top post at NIFA by President Obama in 2012. Before that, he served as dean of Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences; director of Purdue University’s Agricultural Research Programs; professor and head of Kansas State University’s Entomology Department; and professor of entomology at Mississippi State University.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed state Rep. Andy Gipson as his new agriculture commissioner. Gipson is an attorney and Baptist pastor and has been in the state House since 2008. He lives on a farm in Braxton. Gipson succeeds Cindy Hyde-Smith whom Bryant named to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran until a special election can be held in November. The winner will then serve the rest of Cochran’s term, which ends in January 2021.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig hired Julie Kenney as the new deputy secretary for the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before joining the department, Kenney had been active in the agribusiness industry for nearly 15 years, serving in marketing and communications roles for private industry and agricultural associations and checkoff programs. Kenney and her family also own and operate a corn and soybean farm in Story County.

James E. Kearns was sworn in this week as a member of the International Trade Commission. A Democrat from Colorado, Kearns was nominated by President Obama in January 2017, then nominated by President Trump the following June. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 1.  Kearns served as a trade adviser for 11 years on the Democratic staff of the House Ways and Means Committee, including for the last five years as international trade counsel.

Emily Dean is retiring as chief financial officer with the Farm Credit System Insurance Corp. at the end of the month. She’s been serving as CFO since 2013. Before joining FCSIC, Dean was the associate chief financial officer for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Andrew Grimaldi, a former branch chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission, was named to succeed Dean.

Anne Marie White was sworn in last week as the Energy Department’s new assistant secretary for Environmental Management. A Michigan native, White is the founder of Bastet Technical Services LLC, a consulting firm that has provided solutions to environmental challenges across DOE.

Purity Dairies President Mark Ezell has retired from the company, which was acquired by Dean Foods in 1998. Ezell, who at age 15 began as a part-time employee, is the last member of his family to have worked for Purity Dairies, formerly known as Ezell’s Dairies, which was founded in the mid-1920s. The Nashville-based business provides products throughout Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky and is said to be one of the last distributors of the Nutty Buddy ice cream cone.

Leon Marchal was hired by Netherlands-based DuPont Industrial Biosciences as its innovation director. He previously held a similar post at For Farmers, a Dutch feed manufacturer. DuPont Industrial Biosciences is a business unit of DowDuPont specialty products that targets animal nutrition, among other markers.

The Russell Group promoted Savannah Block to the position of senior legislative assistant. The Virginia Tech alum and daughter of former USDA Secretary John Block, has been with the firm for nearly two years, beginning as an intern and then serving as a legislative and regulatory analyst.

Equitable Food Initiative is welcoming four new members to its board of directors. Victor Smith and Kathryn Ault join as grower representatives, Martin Guerena as a pest management expert, and Laura MacCleery as a representative of consumer interest. Smith is CEO of JV Smith Companies, with farming, cooling and distributing facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Mexico. Ault is vice president of sales for Nature Sweet Tomatoes, Guerena is a sustainable agriculture specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and MacCleery is director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Equitable Food Initiative is a nonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks to transform agriculture and improve the lives of farmworkers. Click here to see a list of the members of EFI Executive Board.

Arkansas FFA member Noah Davis’s run on ABC’s American Idol came to an end Monday night. Davis, a student at Arkansas Tech University, didn’t make the cut from 50 to 24 contestants, coming up short with his rendition of Lady Gaga’s “You & I.” Davis, who won FFA’s 2017 National Talent Competition, had hoped to use winnings from the show to start an alpaca farm.

Earl Wayne Sears, who served as the National Cotton Council of America’s executive vice president from 1978 to 1989, died yesterday in Memphis, Tenn., where he’d lived for the past 47 years. He was 90. Born on a farm in Texas, Sears graduated from Texas Tech University in 1948 and began teaching at Lamesa (Texas) High School where he founded the school’s vocational agriculture program with the FFA, a program that continues to this day. He joined the NCC’s field service in 1952 and went on to work in the organization for more than 30 years. After retiring in 1989, he remained a consultant, coordinating the fund-raising effort for the Cotton Foundation to purchase a Washington office building to house the National Cotton Council and Cotton Council International. Sears also served on the board of directors of Habit for Humanity, chaired the board of Agricenter International and was an inductee into the Cotton Industry Hall of Fame.

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