J.B. Penn has retired after working over five decades in the agriculture industry, the last 14 years at John Deere. He joined the company in 2006 as its chief economist. Before that, Penn served as a USDA undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. Earlier, he worked in various roles at USDA and also as senior staff economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Penn served as President of Economic Perspectives, Inc., from 1981-1988 and Senior Vice President of Sparks Commodities, Inc., from 1988—2001. In retirement, J.B. plans to make his home base on the family livestock farm where he grew up in the Ozark foothills of northeastern Arkansas and spend time with his daughter in Cummin, Georgia.    

Brian Quintenz has decided to not to seek renomination as a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Quintenz’s five-year statutory term as commissioner expires this month, and he says he wishes to pursue “new challenges and opportunities.” Before being appointed to the commission, Quintenz worked for Merrill Lynch and also on Capitol Hill. 

Wayne Maloney has retired from USDA, where he served as the deputy director in the office of external affairs at Rural Development. Maloney has worked for USDA since 2002, and before that he worked on Capitol Hill for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. Maloney said he hopes to do some private sector work, but for this summer he is focused on growing his best garden and cutting lots of firewood. 

Brian Quintenz

Brian Quintenz

Scott Hutchins’ nomination to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics has been sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Kim Vanneman has decided to step down as South Dakota’s secretary of agriculture. Vanneman was appointed to the position in December 2018. Before that, she served in the South Dakota House of Representatives for six years. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has appointed Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden to serve as the Interim Secretary of Agriculture. Vanneman’s last day is May 8.

Nutrien hired Charlotte Hebebrand as the new executive vice president of stakeholder relations and chief sustainability officer. Hebebrand previously served as director general of the International Fertilizer Association. 

Molly O’Connor has left OFW Law, where she worked as a senior policy adviser. In her seven years at the firm, she covered a variety of agricultural issues including biotechnology, forestry, pet food, livestock, meat processing/packaging, international trade, and international food aid policy issues. She is heading to CropLife America as the new director of federal government relations.

J. Scott Angle has accepted the position of vice president of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Florida, effective July 13. Angle currently serves as director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and has more than 35 years' experience in agricultural science and administration. Before joining NIFA, he served 25 years as the director of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension. He will succeed Jack Payne, who will retire July 1 after serving nearly 10 years in that position.

Kincannon & Reed welcomed Jimmy Paulakuhn to its team as the new managing director. He will focus on talent acquisition needs of its animal agriculture clients. Paulakuhn previously served as the director of commercial poultry operations at Pfizer and spent two years as Zoetis’s national sales director for U.S. poultry. 

Jamieson Greer has left the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where he served as the chief of staff to Robert Lighthizer. He has taken a new job with King & Spalding where he will be a partner and plans to register as a lobbyist.

Lillie Brady has left her position at USDA as director of intergovernmental and external affairs. She accepted a new position with Corteva AgriScience’s government affairs team as a governmental affairs associate.

Elsa Murano has been selected to serve on the newly formed Food Security of the Americas Advisory Council to help address food supply issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in her career, Murano served as the undersecretary for food safety at USDA. She is a member of the board of directors for Hormel Foods, and also served as Texas A&M University’s first female and first Hispanic-American president. She is currently the director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

On May 4, United Natural Foods Inc. named Jim Gehr as its new chief supply chain officer. Paul Green, UNFI's current chief supply chain officer, has taken on the new role of president of UNFI Fresh. Gehr has spent the past 29 years at DHL Supply Chain where, since 2004, he has served as president of retail for North America.

Cassie Bladow has left the Senate, where she was the chief of staff to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to return to the U.S. Beet Sugar Association as its new president. Bladow previously served as vice president of USBSA. She grew up on a sugar beet farm in Minnesota and is a graduate of North Dakota State University. 

Cassie Bladow

Cassie Bladow

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has appointed Tony Eberhard as his new chief of staff. Eberhard previously worked as Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff in 2017. Since then, he has served as the vice president of legislative affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association.

USDA has appointed 27 new members to serve on the Potatoes USA board. The new members will serve a three-year term. They are: Greg Hebdon, Blythe, Calif; Rob Giesbrecht, Aberdeen, Idaho; Kamren Koompin, American Falls, Idaho; Andrew Porath, American Falls, Idaho; Morgan Andrus, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Ryan Moss, Rupert, Idaho; Kent Peterson, Shelley, Idaho; Justin Searle, Shelley, Idaho; Matt Floming, Thomson, Ill.; Dan Blackstone, Caribou, Maine; Jennifer Gogan, Littleton, Maine; Kathy deVries-Ruehs, Melrose, Maine; Scott Hanson, Cornell, Mich.; Casey Folson, East Grand Forks, Minn.; David Fedje, Hoople, N.D.; Brad Nilson, Hoople, N.D.; Jess Blatchford, Baker City, Ore.; Steve Barrett, Lubbock, Texas; Dennis Wright, Kennewick, Wash.; Juan Martinez, Warden, Wash.; Colt Underwood, West Richland, Wash.; Kevin Schleicher, Custer, Wis.; Chris Olsen, Othello, Wash.; Josh Knights, Plover, Wis.; and Mike Carter, Schofield, Wis.

Burton Swanson died April 23 after fighting a long illness. Swanson grew up on his family farm near Princeton, Ill. After graduating with a degree in agricultural education from the University of Illinois, he joined the Peace Corps where he was first assigned to Cyprus. He was called back to Washington, D.C., upon the death of President John Kennedy and continued to serve in the Peace Corps as a recruiting officer. He returned to the education sector and in 1975 accepted a position at the University of Illinois, where he remained for his entire academic and international career. He worked as a professor of rural development and also served as the director of INTERPAKS (International Program for Agricultural Knowledge Systems).

Political consultant and strategist Eddie Mahe, Jr. died May 3.  He served under 3 chairs at the Republican National Committee and brought the committee into the modern computer age, installing the first computer at the RNC to using geodemographic targeting. He left the RNC in 1977 to establish his own consulting firm and later employed many of those same targeting and analytical tools for agriculture. Working for US AID in the early 1980’s  he developed the processes and oversaw their use in for putting on campaigns in the emerging democracies in Central America, Haiti and the Philippines.  He played a crucial role in helping soybean farmers win the first U.S. soybean checkoff referendum and worked for several checkoff boards over the course of his career.

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