Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is getting more help as he continues to implement President Trump’s agenda and work with Congress on a new farm bill. On Monday, he presided over the swearing-in of five senior officials at the department’s Whitten Building. Ken Isley took the oath as Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator; Martin Barbre as Risk Management Agency Administrator; Joel Baxley as Rural Housing Service Administrator; Ken Johnson as Rural Utilities Service Administrator; and Bette Brand as Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator … In addition, the Senate last week confirmed Ken Barbic as the department’s assistant secretary for congressional relations. Barbic was a senior director in the Washington office of Western Growers, the association of fruit and vegetable growers in California, Arizona and Colorado. Before that, the California native served as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for congressional affairs and as a legislative assistant with the House Ways and Means Committee.
Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Rural Forward, a new organization with the mission of promoting a Democratic message in rural America ahead of the midterm elections. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who is now CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, is serving as an honorary chair of the group, along with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and former Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Another top official has quit the EPA, where Administrator Scott Pruitt has been battling to keep his job amid a number of scandals. Albert “Kell” Kelly resigned Tuesday without giving a reason for his departure. A banker for most of his career, Kelly joined EPA a year ago, taking charge of Superfund cleanups. About that time, he was banned from banking and fined $125,000 by the FDIC for violating agency loan rules. Pruitt praised Kelly, a fellow Oklahoman, saying he’d made a “tremendous impact” on the Superfund program. Also departing Tuesday was Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, the head of Pruitt’s security detail. Samantha Dravis, a close aide to Pruitt and a senior policy adviser, resigned her post in early April.
Jim Barbee is leaving the Nevada Department of Agriculture to take over as Churchill County manager. Barbee will be with the NDA through May 18. “Jim Barbee has served as a member of my administration since 2011,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said. “I want to thank him for his service and I wish him well in his future endeavors.” Barbee has served on the National FFA Board of Directors and FFA Foundation Board of Trustees.
Kraig Naasz is leaving his post as CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council while continuing his work for Washington 2 Advocates, the issue management firm at which he’s a partner. Naasz joined the Distilled Spirits Council in 2016 and before that served as president and chief executive of the American Frozen Food Institute.
After 16 years as president of the Agribusiness division, Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness President Dan Vradenburg plans to take on a new position in the company’s venture capital arm as board chair of Cavallo Ventures. The transition is expected to take place later this year; Wilbur-Ellis expects to name Vradenburg's successor by the end of 2018.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and David Young, R-Iowa, this week launched the bipartisan House Food Waste Caucus to explore ways to reduce waste across the food supply chain. Said Pingree, “It’s unthinkable that perfectly good food is going to waste when 50 million Americans don’t always know where their next meal will come from.” USDA estimates American consumers waste almost one pound of food per person per day.