Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue named Pam Miller the senior associate administrator for policy at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Perdue noted that Miller has spent 20 years working in the House of Representatives, with service on both the Agriculture and Appropriations committees, focusing on funding for USDA. “I have no doubt Pam will help us continue the work of USDA to do right and feed everyone,” Perdue said.
Syngenta is celebrating the remarkable career of Mary-Dell Chilton, who is retiring from the company at the age of 79. Chilton, who joined Syngenta 35 years ago, is widely recognized as a founder of modern plant biotechnology, after she and her research teams demonstrated that Agrobacterium is an effective vehicle for DNA transfer and produced the first transgenic plant. Chilton’s contributions to agriculture have resulted in numerous accolades, including the World Food Prize in 2013 — recognizing individuals who have “increased the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” The retirement ceremony was held at the Syngenta Innovation Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Roy Steiner was named managing director for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Initiative, charged with, among other things, carrying forward the Foundation’s “enduring commitment to a sustainable Green Revolution in Africa.” Steiner comes to the Foundation from the Omidyar Network, where he served as director of the Intellectual Capital team. He has also has held leadership positions with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nearly 27 years ago, as a newly minted graduate student, he joined the Foundation as part of the Warren Weaver Fellows program.
Nick Yaksich, the head of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Washington D.C. office, says he plans to retire at the end of the year. Yaksich joined AEM in 1998 as vice president of government and industry relations. Prior to that, he worked as a lobbyist for the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Associated General Contractors of America after leaving Capitol Hill as a congressional aide.
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture this week is honoring top employees of three member-departments for their service to their states. Recipients of the NASDA Honor Awards are: Lisa Hanson, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture; Bryan Painter, director of communications and administration for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry; and Larry Maxwell, chief administrative officer and assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The Association also honored the late Gus Schumacher, a former commissioner of food and agriculture in Massachusetts, with its Ambassador’s Circle Award. NASDA calls Schumacher, who went on to become Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services in the Clinton administration, an industry leader whose personal effort and dedication to NASDA “contributed to successful policy outcomes and the amplification of NASDA’s mission.” Click here for a fuller description of the awards.
Matt Wohlman, the deputy commission of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, is joining Land O’Lakes Inc. as senior director of state and industry affairs. Before joining MDA in 2011, the fifth-generation family farmer served in staff roles for U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and State Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Wohlman starts the new job at Land O’Lakes Sept. 26 and will be working out of the farmer-owned co-op’s headquarters in Arden Hills, Minn.
Cris Coffin is returning to American Farmland Trust as a senior policy adviser, expanding AFT’s federal and state policy engagement around farmland protections, farm transfer and succession and land access. Coffin served as New England director for AFT from 2001-2015. Before that, she held several positions in the U.S. Senate, including as professional staff on the Agriculture Committee and as chief of staff to Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis. More recently, Coffin has been policy dirdector for Land For Good, a New England-based organization focused on gaining ground for farmers. She also held positions with Resources for the Future and the Vermont Department of Agriculture.
Professors Keith Slotkin from Ohio State and Iowa State’s Bing Yang were appointed to joint faculty positions at the University of Missouri and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. They are the second and third faculty members hired through a collaborative initiative that aims to elevate regional plant science to address global challenges. Blake Meyers was the first faculty member hired as part of a joint initiative with MU, announced in 2014, to attract accomplished scientists focused on cutting-edge plant science and agriculture innovation to both institutions.
FLM Harvest named Chief Operating Officer Laurie Fleck as its new president and CEO. Fleck has held that position on an interim basis for the past eight months. Before joining FLM, Fleck led internal communications for Syngenta Seeds NA and held a variety of senior management roles at major agriculture and food communication and consulting agencies. The Iowa State alum’s experience includes animal health, food production systems, packaged goods and production agriculture… Succeeding Fleck as FLM’s chief operating officer is Steve Zabka, who came to the agency in 2015 as senior vice president for resource planning and project management.
Teresa Romero is the new president of the United Farm Workers, the first woman to hold the post. UFW also says she’s the first immigrant woman to head a national union, having migrated from Mexico in the early 1980s. She succeeds Arturo Rodriguez, who became president when his father-in-law, César Chávez, died unexpectedly in 1993. Dolores Huerta was a cofounder of the organization along with Chávez in the early 1970s, but never held the position of president. Romero managed a construction company and a law firm that helped workers with immigration and workers compensation claims before joining the farmworker union nine years ago.
Harry Watts, the director of the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, is retiring this month after more than 16 years with the organization. Watts started with KFB back in 2002 as managing director for government relations. He says he’s looking forwarded to traveling to places that he’s not yet had a chance to see and to spending quality time with family and friends.
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CORRECTION: In the Sept. 12 newsletter, Agri-Pulse incorrectly reported that the Grocery Manufacturers Association had hired Mari Stull as its director of international regulatory policy. The item was written based on a dated news release. Stull worked at GMA in the early 2000s.