California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Val Dolcini to join the California Environmental Protection Agency as deputy secretary for agriculture. Most recently, Dolcini served as president and CEO for the Pollinator Partnership in Washington, D.C., spearheading efforts to plant milkweed and other pollinator plants in buffer areas to support monarch butterflies. During Dolcini’s career, he served at the USDA Farm Service Agency as state executive director for California, then as FSA administrator from 2014-2017. He also worked as a staffer for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Gov. Gray Davis, Rep. Vic Fazio and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in his career.

Val Dolcini

Val Dolcini

Western Growers hires Anna Bilderbach as the new learning and development manager on the human resources team. Bringing over 20 years of experience in financial services, non-profit, and project manager positions in this role she is responsible for conducting all training for Western Growers member farmers and the agricultural community, in both English and Spanish..

Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Collin Peterson announced several new staff members and position changes last week. Melinda Cep returns to the committee as legislative and policy director. She most recently served as senior director for the U.S. markets and food team at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In her past experience on the committee, she served as a fellow during the 2008 Farm Bill. She also worked at the USDA serving as deputy chief of staff to former secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack. Coming to the committee from the National Association of Conservation Districts, Carlton Bridgeforth joins as professional staff. Jasmine Dickerson has been appointed to serve as staff director for the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations. Before coming to the subcommittee, she was the legislative director for Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. Appointed to serve as staff director for the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research is Brandon Honeycutt. He previously served in the office of California Congressman Jimmy Panetta of California and in the office of congressional relations at USDA during the Obama administration. Félix Muñiz, Jr. becomes the staff director for the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. Muñiz previously served as a legislative assistant to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio. Ashley Smith joins the committee to serve as staff director for the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit. She most recently served as the legislative director for Rep. David Scott, D-Ga. Current staff member Mike Stranz was appointed to serve as staff director for the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and Katie Zenk becomes Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, as well as the Economist for the Committee’s Majority staff. Lyron Blum-Evitts is tapped to serve as the committee’s member relations coordinator after leaving the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee where she served as DCCC’s policy director. Lastly, Mickeala Carter joins as outreach coordinator. Before joining the Committee, she served as communications director and senior legislative assistant to Rep. Filemon Vela D-Texas.

Michawn Rich and Meghan Rogers have moved up to communications director and deputy communications director, respectively, for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. A native Nevadan, Rich has been at USDA since the beginning of the Trump Administration, first serving on the beachhead team. Before coming to the USDA, she worked on Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s senate reelection campaign as communications director and before that worked as deputy communications director for Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Rich steps into this position after former communications director Tim Murtaugh moved on to join President Trump’s reelection team. Rodgers has been at the USDA since August 2018 and came to the department from Capitol Hill where she worked as the communications director for Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Flo., and legislative correspondent for Patrick Meehan, R-Penn. 

Settling in to her new position at USDA is Ashley Willits. Willits works as an advance lead for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. She is currently finishing her degree while working at USDA. The upstate New York native will graduate in May from Tarleton State University with a degree in Agricultural Communications.

Joel Baxley, acting assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, tapped Chad Rupe to serve as the acting administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, effective April 1. Rupe has served as USDA Rural Development state director of Wyoming since 2017.

David Marten begins a new job as deputy director, D.C. Office for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Marten most recently served as legislative assistant for Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash. Emily Kolano has taken over handing agriculture, labor, science/digital technology, and space issues and Jaxon Wolfe has added Puget Sound recovery, environment/natural resources, energy, Tribes, transportation, and ports to his portfolio for Rep. Heck.

Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) hired Brian Guess to work as Southwest U.S. Territory Sales Manager. Guess has over 12 years of growing operations experience, most recently serving as the director of Field Operations for LIV Organic Produce. Before that, he managed regional grower operations in Southern California for Homegrown Organic Farms. MBI is a global provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products.

Stepping down as Organic Valley’s CEO is George Siemon. Siemon was one of seven founders who created Organic Valley and has served the company since 1988. Organic Valley has appointed Bob Kirchoff, current chief business officers, to step in as interim CEO.