Women are making big gains in the House of Representatives, and not just as elected representatives. Women have been named staff directors of seven of the 20 permanent committees in the House in the 116th Congress, the most ever, according to Bloomberg. They include Anne Simmons, who has the job at the Agriculture Committee under the new Democratic chairman, Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The others are Kathy Dedrick at Transportation and Infrastructure, Shalanda Young at Appropriations, Charla Ouertatani at Financial Services, Veronique Pluviose at Education and Labor, Ellen Balis at Budget, and Hope Goins at Homeland Security.

House Ag Chairman Peterson promoted Kellie Adesina to chief counsel for the committee. Adesina had been serving as the panel’s senior counsel since 2016. Prior to joining the Agriculture Committee staff, Adesina was senior counselor at USDA. Peterson praised Adesina as a “strong attorney and a great leader,” adding, “I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has named the GOP staff directors for five of the panel’s six subcommittees. The appointees are Holly Woodruff Lyons (Aviation), John Rayfield (Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation), Johanna Hardy (Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management), Murphie Barrett (Highways and Transit), and Ian Bennitt (Water Resources and Environment). Graves says a new Republican staff director for the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will be announced later.

The National Grocers Association hired Robert Yeakel to direct its government relations department. Yeakel most recently worked as a policy adviser for the House Budget Committee where he handled a wide portfolio of issues including telecommunications, cybersecurity, and financial services.

Brian Grunenfelder, a trade negotiator with more than three decades of experience, has joined the American Sugar Alliance as an in-house consultant. Grunenfelder recently served as the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative in the Office of Agricultural Affairs where he led the U.S.-Japan Trans-Pacific Partnership Agricultural Market Access Group and managed agricultural negotiations with South Korea, Colombia, and Peru. Grunenfelder previously spent more than 25 years with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Andrew Bahrenburg has joined the staff of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as legislative assistant on agriculture, energy and the environment. For the past two years Bahrenburg has been working as the national policy director with the National Young Farmers Coalition. Erin Foster West is taking his place in NYFC’s Washington office. 

Miles Chiotti is the new manager of government affairs in Washington for John Deere. He’d been serving on the staff of Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., for the past four years, most recently as legislative director.

Jared Henderson has moved from the Senate to the House and is now the legislative director for Democratic Rep. TJ Cox of California. He previously was on the staff of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who lost her bid for reelection in November, handling a portfolio that included agriculture, rural development, biofuels, trade and transportation. Before that he helped manage government relations with CropLife America.

Ryan Donnelly was promoted to legislative aide in the office of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. The South Dakota State alum served the past two years as a legislative correspondent.

Cargill has selected Jon Nash to lead its North American protein business. He will report to Brian Sikes, who was recently named leader of the company’s global protein and salt businesses. Nash started with Cargill in 1998. Most recently, he was the president of Cargill’s Protein foodservice business. He has also served as vice president of operations and was the general manager and controller of the company’s Fresno, Calif., beef facility. Nash begins the new job in March and will be based in Cargill Protein’s new headquarters in Wichita, Kan.

The National Biodiesel Board hired David Cobb as its director of federal affairs in NBB’s Washington office. Cobb most recently served as federal affairs director for CHS Inc., the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative. Prior to his six years at CHS, Cobb worked in government affairs for S&P Global, and as a legislative assistant for then-senators Max Baucus of Montana and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom reappointed Karen Ross as secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Ross held the post for eight years under Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown. Before joining CDFA, Ross was chief of staff to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The American Feed Industry Association hired Lacie Dotterweich as its new communications coordinator. The Iowa State alum previously served as a policy program assistant at the Center for Rural Affairs in Iowa.

Alpha Gamma Rho, the nation's leading agricultural fraternity, named Carol Johnson of Quitman, Ark., as its chief development officer. Johnson most recently served as a senior development officer at Arkansas Children's Foundation in Little Rock. She began her career with the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association as business manager and educational development officer. She also served as a branch manager with Farm Credit Services.

John Dillard, a lawyer at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz (OFW Law), has been named a Principal of the firm. Dillard joined OFW Law as an associate in 2012 and is in the firm’s Agriculture, Food, Litigation, and International Trade practice. Dillard “has counseled and represented food manufacturers, restaurants, farming operations, and trade associations on USDA and FDA regulatory issues, environmental laws, and antitrust compliance,” OFW Law said.

The American Farm Bureau presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and gave the Farm Bureau Founders Award to Dick Newpher during AFBF’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans. The Farm Bureau praised Hatch, who retired from the Senate Jan. 3, as a “longtime advocate in Congress for farmers and ranchers.” Newpher, a Pennsylvania native, long served as a Farm Bureau leader at the state and national levels. He eventually became AFBF’s executive director of public policy and then executive vice president and treasurer of the organization and its affiliated companies.

Good luck to Logan Brown, who is retiring Feb. 1 from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture after 31 years of service to the agency. Brown’s supervisor, Tom Beaver, says Brown, an economic development specialist, was “involved pretty much from day one” with the development of the “Jersey Fresh” brand marketing program, the longest running state ag branding program in the country.

Minnesota-based animal nutrition company Zinpro Corp. has a new leadership lineup. William Scrimgeour has moved from his role as both company president and chief executive officer to the sole responsibility of CEO. Rob Sheffer, who previously served as chief operating officer, becomes company president; and Patrick Brunner, who previously served as chief financial officer, is now COO.

Erik Oberholtzer has joined the board of directors of the Rodale Institute. Oberholtzer is a chef, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the restaurant group Tender Greens. The Rodale Institute is a nonprofit that supports research into organic farming.

Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association, was named to the board of the National Association of Manufacturers’ Council of Manufacturing Associations. Other members joining the CMA board in 2019 include Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association.

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