Progressive Produce has hired Christine Toy as sales manager and Seth Tillery as sales and grower relations manager. Toy brings over 25 years of industry experience, mostly in grapes and citrus produce. She most recently was with Homegrown Organic Farms where she was the table grape category manager. Tillery also previously worked at Homegrown Organic Farms where he was the sales and grower relations manager for the past 12 years. He brings over 20 years of industry experience.

Matt Fisher is the new chairman of California Citrus Mutual. Fisher is a fourth-generation citrus grower and is involved in his family business located in Bakersfield, Calif. Fisher succeeds Curt Holmes, who served the maximum of three years as chairman. The Board also appointed a new slate of officers for the upcoming year. Brian Neufeld will continue serving as the vice chairman. New to the committee is Zak Laffite, who will serve as vice chairman and Keith Watkins, who will serve as the Secretary/Treasurer.

Rodolfo Spielmann is the new president and CEO of NatureSweet Tomatoes. He brings over 23 years of experience, previously working for Procter & Gamble, Heinz, Del Monte and Mars. Most recently, he was president of the Pet Consumer business for Central Garden & Pet.

Hitchcock Farms of Salinas, Calif., hired Jill Lenz and Dan Holt to its sales team. Lenz will handle sales of the company’s full product line, including branded Garden Hearts romaine and Iceberg Babies. She has worked in sales and procurement at Tanimura & Antle and Fresh Express. She most recently was with Classic Salads in sales for 15 years. Holt is Hitchcock Farms’ new vice president of sales. He most recently was director of sales at Earthbound Farm, which he joined in 2006.

Stater Bros. Markets has announced Dennis McIntyre, current executive vice president of marketing, will assume the additional role of chief marketing officer, effective Nov. 4. McIntyre has over 41 years of experience in the supermarket industry, beginning his career in 1978 as a courtesy clerk. McIntyre recently served as president and chairman of the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC). Before this role, he served the WAFC as vice president in addition to education chairperson. 

Stater Bros. Holdings Inc. has elected Pete Van Helden to serve on its board of directors. Van Helden currently serves and will continue to serve as chief executive officer of Stater Bros. Markets. Van Helden joined Stater Bros. Markets as president and chief operating officer in 2013, and in 2016 he was appointed to the position of CEO.

United Fresh Produce Association will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Emanuel Lazopoulos, former senior vice president of Del Monte Fresh Produce,  at the 2020 FreshStart Conference’s Gala Dinner, on January 15.

Bob Ross is retiring from USDA after a 39-year career with the department. He currently serves as the senior financial economist at USDA and has served as a detailee to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. Ross handled rural development issues for the subcommittee.

Global food retailer Ahold Delhaize has hired Natalie Knight as executive vice president of finance, effective March 1. Knight will be nominated by the supervisory board to be appointed as chief financial officer and a member of the management board at the annual general meeting of shareholders in April 2020. She will succeed Jeff Carr, who will leave Ahold Delhaize when his current term expires in April.

The Meat Institute has elected officers to lead the organization in 2020 at its Fall Forum in Washington, D.C. last week. Warren Panico, president and CEO of Sigma, will serve as chairman; Brad McDowell, president of Agri-Foods, will serve as vice chairman; Steve Van Lannen, president and COO, American Foods Group, LLC, will serve as treasurer; and Eric Gustafson, CEO of Coast Packing Company, has been selected to serve as secretary. Joe Maas, co-owner & vice president of manufacturing and production at JTM Food Group, will serve as immediate past chairman.

Scott Starkweather has been promoted to vice president of farmer manager at U.S. Bank. He previously served as the team lead of the agriculture division.

Andrew Earl has left the office of Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, where he served as a legislative assistant covering the agriculture, food, transportation, animal welfare, environmental protection, public lands, and natural resources portfolio. Crapo’s office has not yet hired a replacement, but in the meantime Scott Riplinger has taken over Earl’s portfolio.

Kyle Sharp has left the office of Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., where he served as a legislative correspondent covering the animal welfare, energy, environmental protection, public lands and natural resources portfolio. Horsford’s office has not yet hired a replacement. The legislative director, Josie Villanueva, has taken over his portfolio in the meantime.

Tim Charters now serves as the executive director to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., on the Congressional Western Caucus. He previously served as the vice president of government and political affairs of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Melissa Guerrero now serves as a legislative aide handling the agriculture, food, and energy portfolio for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. She previously served as a legislative correspondent.

JR Kane has moved over to the personal office of Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to serve as a legislative assistant covering the telecommunications, science and technology, economy, and commerce portfolio. He previously served as a legislative assistant to Barrasso on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee covering the highway infrastructure and general portfolio.

Rebecca Avitia is the chief of staff for Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. She previously served as Heinrich’s state director.

Bryan Doyle left the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., where he served as communications director. Subhan Cheema has taken over as communications director for Jayapal. He previously served as the deputy communications director for Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Caren Street departed the personal office of Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., where she served as the chief of staff. She has moved to the Congressional Black Caucus to serve as the executive director for Bass. Darryn Harris has taken over as chief of staff for Bass in the personal office.

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