USDA Chief of Staff Heidi Green is returning home to Georgia after helping her long-time ally, Secretary Sonny Perdue, during his first year in office.

White House agriculture adviser Ray Starling is moving to the Agriculture Department to take over as chief of staff. The changes will be effective June 1, according to USDA. 

“Heidi Green’s roots have called her home and she will be rejoining her family in Georgia," Perdue said in a statement. "Heidi’s husband and two young children made significant sacrifices so that she could help us at USDA, and we thank them for their patience.  Her leadership during the transition of administrations and direction of the department through the first year of our tenure have been key to setting the course toward achieving our goals at USDA."

Perdue said Starling "enjoys a strong reputation in the agricultural community and already has been working closely with USDA as a leading voice for agriculture in the administration. USDA and its customers will be well-served by his guidance. We wish Heidi well, and welcome Ray to the team.”  

Starling, a lawyer who grew up on a Century Family Farm in southeast North Carolina, has been on the staff of the National Economic Council (NEC) since President Trump took office.

"While our time to work together has been brief, I have come to know Ray as a trusted adviser on issues near and dear to the heart of the American farmer.  We will miss his expertise, his southern charm, and the sincerity with which he approached his work," noted Larry Kudlow, director of the NEC. "Secretary Perdue has gained a fierce advocate for agriculture, and I wish Ray the very best."

Starling previously was staff director for Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. From 2012 to 2015 Starling was general counsel to Tillis, who was then Speaker of the House in the North Carolina Legislature. Starling also has served as general counsel to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Starling, who was in private practice for several years with the Hunton & Williams law firm, also has taught numerous agricultural and food law courses.

He has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina. 

Green’s association with Perdue, a former Georgia governor, goes back to his gubernatorial transition team in 2002. After serving as an adviser to the governor she eventually became commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

She was also a founding member of Perdue Partners LLC, the grain trading company founded by Perdue, his cousin David, now a U.S. senator, and Trey Childress, another former Perdue gubernatorial administration official.

For more on Green and Perdue's inner circle, click here.

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