There’s a new team in place at the Renewable Fuels Association, as Geoff Cooper has formally replaced Bob Dinneen as the RFA’s president and CEO. Dinneen is staying with the organization as senior strategic advisor. The leadership change had been announced in July and was made official during RFA’s annual membership meeting in Kansas City. RFA also announced the following staffing changes: Jessica Bennett, who joined the RFA in January 2018, was promoted to vice president of government and external affairs; Connor Hamburg, formerly with the National Corn Growers Association, will be the new director of government affairs; and Jackie Pohlman has been hired as RFA’s new manager of member relations. Pohlman most recently led client relations at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University.

Alan Bjerga, who’s been covering agriculture for Bloomberg News for more than a decade, has been hired by the National Milk Producers Federation as senior vice president of communications. That position had been held by Chris Galen, who is taking on a new role as senior vice president of member services and strategic initiatives. Bjerga is also a past president of the National Press Club in Washington and the North American Agricultural Journalists. NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern also announced Jaime Castaneda, the long-time head of strategic initiatives and trade policy, will become senior vice president of policy strategy and international trade. In addition, Nicole Ayache has joined NMPF as director of sustainability initiatives. She previously worked as a consultant for the dairy industry’s animal care and sustainability program, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, as well as the Innovation Center for US Dairy.

Mark Ripato will take over as president of the Agribusiness division for Wilbur-Ellis Company, LLC, starting November 1. For the past three years, Ripato has served as the CEO and president of Tenkoz, a leading agricultural buying group of which Wilbur-Ellis is the largest retail member, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Dan Vradenburg, Wilbur-Ellis’ current Agribusiness president, will soon transition to the role of board chair for Wilbur-Ellis’ venture capital arm, Cavallo Ventures.

Allan Stokes has retired from his position as director of environmental programs with the National Pork Board. Stokes served with the Pork Board, which administers the Pork Checkoff, for the past 13 years. 

Nicole L'Esperance is moving across the Capitol to take a new job on the press team of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The University of North Carolina alum been working as communications director for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, another Oregonian, for the past three years....Kansas State grad and former Agri-Pulse intern Dan Martin moves from Sen. Jerry Moran’s office to become legislative assistant for agriculture for Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan.

Glenn Prickett is stepping down as chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy. Prickett, who joined the Conservancy in 2010, plans to stay with TNC for the next six months as a senior advisor. Lynn Scarlett will continue to lead public policy and climate strategy while Heather Zichal will assume acting leadership of corporate engagement.

Congratulations to Patrick Bane from Arrowsmith, Ill., who’s been named the 2018 Pig Farmer of the Year. The award recognizes a farmer who excels at raising pigs using We Care ethical principles and connects with today’s consumers about how pork is produced. Bane’s family has been raising pigs for three generations and now raises some 74,000 pigs on their farm in central Illinois. Bane won this year’s honor by achieving the highest combined score from a third-party judging panel and online voting. 

The dairy industry is also passing out some honors. The World Dairy Expo named Land O’Lakes Inc. board chairman Pete Kappelman its Dairyman of the Year. Kappelman, of Two Rivers, Wis., owns and operates Meadow Brook Dairy and will celebrate 23 years of service on the Land O'Lakes board in early 2019. He also serves on the National Milk Producers Federation's board of directors and has held positions on the U.S. Dairy Export Council and as an ag policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative. Jeannette Sheehan was named Dairy Woman of the Year. Sheehan owns and operates Sheeknoll Farms near Rochester, Minn. She has served as an official judge of the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest at World Dairy Expo 12 times while also coaching the Olmsted County 4-H Dairy Judging Team to numerous national awards.

President Trump is nominating Indian-American nuclear scientist Rita Baranwal to be an assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy. She currently serves as the director of DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. Previously, Baranwal was director of technology development and application at Westinghouse and was a manager in materials technology at Bechtel Bettis Inc., where she led research and development in nuclear fuel materials for U.S. naval reactors. Trump has also tapped Bernard McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the remainder of the term expiring at the end of June 2020, taking the place of Robert Powelson, who resigned. McNamee currently heads up DOE’s Office of Policy.

There’s a big reorganization going on at Farm Journal involving the creation of several new divisions.  One new division, Data and Research, is being headed by Grey Montgomery, who will continue to oversee Pro Farmer and Doane advisory services. Montgomery joined Farm Journal in early 2018 from Winsight LLC, where he served as chief content and Innovation officer. Mitch Rouda was named president of another new division, Trust in Food, which is devoted to increasing sustainable practices among farmers and ranchers. Rouda had been chief revenue officer. Charlene Finck, formerly Executive Vice President/Chief Content Officer, was promoted to Division President of a new Producer Media Division with responsibility for all of the firm's crop and livestock franchises and Matt Morgan was promoted to Executive Vice President, Produce Division, from his previous role as
Senior Vice President, Digital and Data.

The Association of American Railroads has hired Adrian Arnakis as its next senior vice president of government affairs. Since 2016, Arnakis has served as the deputy staff director for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She’ll join AAR in November, replacing Ian Jefferies as he transitions into his new role as the organization’s next president and CEO.

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