USDA chief Sonny Perdue will soon have a new chief of staff. He’s Ray Starling, who’s been working at the White House as an ag adviser to President Trump. Effective June 1, he’ll replace Heidi Green, who’s heading home to Georgia after helping fellow Georgian Perdue during his first year in office. Starling, a lawyer who grew up on a farm in southeast North Carolina, has been on the staff of the National Economic Council since Trump took office. He previously was staff director for Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. Green is a former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development and a founding member of Perdue Partners LLC, the grain trading company founded by Perdue, his cousin David Perdue, now a U.S. senator, and Trey Childress, another former Perdue gubernatorial administration official.
Several more top slots have been filled at USDA with the appointment of Richard Fordyce as administrator of the Farm Service Agency, Carmen Rottenberg as administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and Bruce Summers as administrator of the Agriculture Marketing Service. Fordyce, a former director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, will oversee FSA’s effort to support agricultural production across the country through a network of 2,100 county and 50 state offices. He most recently was state executive director for FSA in Missouri. Rottenberg has been serving as the deputy administrator for FSIS and, since August 2017, as the acting deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Office of Food Safety. She’ll continue to hold that position until a nominee has been confirmed by the Senate. Rottenberg joined FSIS as an equal employment opportunity specialist in 2007. Paul Kiecker (pronounced KICK-er), who has been serving as acting administrator for FSIS since August, was named Rottenberg’s top deputy. Summers had been serving as acting administrator. He began at USDA in the Fruit and Vegetable program, and has been working in a number of key leadership roles at AMS for more than 30 years.
Melisa Augusto joined the Agricultural Retailers Association this week as its director of communications and marketing. Augusto, who grew up on a family farm in California’s Central Valley, came to ARA from the National Association of Conservation Districts, where she served as director of development. Prior to NACD, she led communications for the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance and held positions at National Farmers Union. She also spent time on the staff of the U.S. Grains Council.
CoBank named Citigroup’s Eric Itambo as the bank’s new chief banking officer, with responsibility for all lending operations and banking services. Itambo spent over 20 years at Citi and currently serves as managing director and Citi’s head of U.S. commercial lending. Originally from Kenya, Itambo is a Rhodes Scholar and holds an MBA from Oxford University. CoBank is a cooperative bank serving agribusinesses, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit associations throughout the United States.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has three new board members: Steven Cahillane is CEO and board chairman of Kellogg Company; Bobby Chacko is president and CEO of Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Paul Chibe holds the same positions at Ferrero North America. The new directors were elected at GMA’s recent spring board meeting.
Jeanette Lombardo, immediate past president of the California Women for Agriculture, was elected president of American Agri-Women for 2018-2019. Lombardo is a co-founder and chief strategic officer for Global Water Innovations, a project developer of groundwater desalination solutions for agriculture. AAW’s new vice president is Karolyn Zurn from Minnesota. Other new officers are: Jenny Stelmach from Kentucky, vice president of communications; Jean Goslin from Kansas, VP for education; Katie Yost from Montana, treasurer; and Natalina Sents from Iowa, secretary. Doris Mold from Minnesota moved into the role of past president.
Marla Stelk has been appointed the next executive director of the Association of State Wetlands Managers. She takes over immediately as ASWM’s assistant director and will formally become executive director late this year after working with the current office holder, Jeanne Christie, in carrying out a transition plan. Christie will then move to another position in the organization. Stelk started her relationship with ASWM five years ago as a policy analyst. Since 2015 she has been an elected town councilor for the town of Gorham, Maine,
FLM Harvest says CropLife America CEO Jay Vroom is joining its board of advisors and will serve in a limited capacity on the board until his retirement from CLA at the end of 2018. Vroom has held the top position at CropLife since 1989.
A new group of executive officers for the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef was elected at the group’s recent General Assembly Meeting in Oklahoma City. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of sustainability at JBS USA, will serve as chair. Ben Weinheimer, vice president of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, is the chair-elect, and Debbie Lyons-Blythe, manager of Blythe Family Farms in the Flint Hills of Kansas, will be secretary/treasurer.
The board of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance recently elected Cameron Gibson, a Virginia crop farmer, as its newest member, representing the United Soybean Board. The election took place at the 17-member board’s semi-annual meeting in St. Louis. USFRA also has announced the creation of a Sustainability Officers Council to provide food companies with access to the farmer and rancher perspective. The Council members are: Kyle Bridgeforth, an Alabama crop farmer; Tom Crave, a Wisconsin dairy farmer; Cassidy Johnston, a New Mexico cattle rancher; Nancy Kavazanjian, a Wisconsin crop farmer; Hilary Maricle, a Nebraska cattle, pig, corn and soybean farmer; and Leon Sheets, an Iowa pig, corn and soybean farmer.
Charles Santerre is settling into his new position as senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Purdue University professor has a doctorate in environmental toxicology and food science from Michigan State University. Santerre will advise the Executive Office of the President on policies related to biotechnology, agriculture, rural prosperity and food safety.
Three peanut producers and three industry representatives have been appointed to USDA’s Peanut Standards Board. Representing the Southeast Region are: producer Martin L. McLendon, Leary, Ga., and producer rep Elizabeth Kaye Smith, affiliated with Golden Peanut Co., Alpharetta, Ga. From the Southwest Region, producer James Richard Chandler, Portales, N.M., and industry rep John Edward Bennett, affiliated with Mars Chocolate, Waco, Texas, were appointed. Board members from the Virginia/Carolina Region are: producer James Wilson Mason, Harrellsville, N.C., and industry rep Kathryn Olivia Swinson, affiliated with Golden Grove Inc., Warsaw, N.C. provides consultation to USDA on quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts. The Board consists of a total 18 members, evenly split between producers and industry representatives. Members serve staggered three-year terms.
The International Dairy Foods Association named A. Bailey Wood Jr. to the expanded position of vice president of communications, public relations and marketing. The Syracuse University alum comes to IDFA from the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, where he served as vice president of communications since 2014. On Capitol Hill, Wood served as communications director for the House Homeland Security Committee and the Republican Policy Committee under former Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif. Wood also served as press secretary for former Reps. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., and Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, and worked as a legislative assistant for the House Committee on Education and Workforce.
Scott Stillwell, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Tyson Foods, is among 18 new appointees to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who made the appointments, said the committee members “represent a diverse group from academia, consumers, the food industry, laboratories, consultants and government agencies, all of which play an important role in providing scientific advice and expertise to USDA on food safety and wholesomeness.” A dozen member of the committee were reappointed. For a complete list of committee members, click here.
Agriculture Secretary Perdue this week also appointed five new members to serve two-year terms on the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection. They are Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America; James Jenkins, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry; Dr. Amilton De Mello, University of Nevada; Tina Rendon, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.; and Kimberly Rice, U.S. Foods. The committee advises on food safety concerns and other matters affecting federal and state inspection program activities. It also contributes to USDA’s regulatory policy development. Twelve other committee members were reappointed. For a complete list of the members, click here.
Marketing Manager Jason Lutz and his wife Danielle are the proud parents of the newest member of the Agri-Pulse team. Taylor Annette Lutz, arrived Monday afternoon, weighing 7 lbs. 8 oz., and is perfect in every way - because she is our first grandchild!