Matt Lohr, who has served as the only appointed chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service during the Trump administration, is leaving USDA to head back home to his farming operation. Lohr was named NRCS chief in December 2018. Prior to his appointment, Leonard Jordan served as acting chief in the early days of the Trump administration. Lohr is a former Virginia ag commissioner and national FFA officer. To read more on Lohr’s departure, click here. Kevin Norton, currently the associate chief of NRCS, will become acting chief upon Lohr's departure. 

Dean Banks

Dean Banks

Dean Banks has been promoted to chief executive of Tyson Foods, effective Oct. 3. He succeeds Noel White, a 37-year veteran of Tyson who held the CEO job for about two years. White will become an executive vice chairman on Tyson’s board. Banks joined Tyson’s board in 2017 and became its president last December. He will retain the title of president after the transition. Before joining Tyson Foods, Banks was a project lead and on the leadership team at X, a business unit of Alphabet Inc. Before joining Alphabet, Banks was a managing partner of SEED Ventures, a group that invested in and developed early stage health care technologies.

Rep. Chris Jacobs, R- N.Y., and Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, have been added to the House Agriculture Committee. To read more on Jacobs and Balderson, click here.

Jacklyn Roberts has moved back to her home state of Texas where she has accepted a job as the director of communications and development with the Texas Ag Land Trust. She previously worked for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where she was the associate director of strategic communications.

The Food and Agriculture Section of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has announced the election of its new board leadership. Sylvia Wulf, CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, and Brian Brazeau, president of Novozymes North America, were elected as the new Chair and Vice Chair. Phil Miller of Bayer is the outgoing chair of the board. Elena Rice, chief science officer and head of Research & Development for Genus PLC, is a new member of the board.

Jace Motley has left the office of Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., where he was a legislative aide covering the portfolio of environment, energy, infrastructure, transportation, and natural resources. He is now a JD candidate at the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Victoria Rivas is the new legislative director for the office of Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. She covers the portfolio of taxation, transportation, and public works. She previously was a legislative assistant for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has hired Jana Adams as executive director of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. Adams most recently served as senior vice president overseeing business operations and marketing strategies at the American Wind Energy Association. In this new role, Adams will help 720 electric cooperatives better engage and serve their members. 

The Arkansas Rice Federation Board has selected Kelly Robbins as its new executive director. Robbins most recently served as the executive director for the Arkansas Petroleum Council. He previously served as executive vice president for three trade groups, including the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas, Arkansas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, and the Arkansas Forestry Association. 

Kelly Robbins

Kelly Robbins

The Renewable Energy Group Inc., has brought on Trisha Conley to serve as vice president of people development, effective Aug. 24. Most recently, Conley worked in HR at BP. Conley has more than 25 years of experience in human resources, talent management, global integration and business organization.

Benjamin Houlton has been chosen as the new Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. Houlton most recently was the director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment and professor of global environmental studies at UC Davis. Houlton has served on the UC Davis faculty since 2007, teaching global environmental studies. In 2017, he was appointed to the University of California Global Climate Leadership Council, charged with implementing greenhouse gas reduction plans for the university to achieve carbon neutrality systemwide by 2025. In 2018, Houlton also served as founding co-chair of the California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions, a public-private partnership connecting leaders in academia, business, finance and philanthropy with policymakers. Houlton succeeds Kathryn Boor, who will become dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education Oct. 1.

Kimberly Morgan has taken a new role with the University of Florida as an associate professor and extension economist at Southwest Florida Research and Extension Center. She previously worked at Virginia Tech as an associate professor and Kohl Junior Faculty Fellow in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The U.S. Apple Association has promoted Jessa Allen to vice president of membership and events and Tracy Grondine to vice president of communications. Allen joined USApple in 2013 as director of membership and events. Grondine joined USApple in 2018 as director of consumer health and media relations.

Ben Noble has joined the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s (FFAR) board of directors. Noble is currently the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Riceland Foods. He joined the company as vice president of marketing and strategy in September 2017 and added the role of vice president of sales in August 2018. He was appointed to his current position at Riceland Foods in April 2020.

Fair Trade USA has promoted Nathalie Marin-Gest to the organization’s leadership group and now leads its producer services team. Marin-Gest previously led the produce and floral team, which is now the fresh goods team. Jesse Appelman is succeeding Marin-Gest as the leader for the fresh goods team. Appelman joined Fair Trade USA six years ago.

Pete Spanedda has been named senior vice president of sales at HP Hood LLC, a producer of dairy products and non-dairy alternatives. Spanedda joined HP Hood in 2004 as director of sales and was later promoted to vice president of sales. He succeeds Jim Walsh, executive vice president of sales, who retired from the company after 20 years. 

Kim Lutz 

Kim Lutz 

Kim Lutz has been named the new executive director of America’s Watershed Initiative, a collaboration among business, government, academic, and civic organizations with a mission of finding solutions to the challenges facing the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Lutz joins AWI from The Nature Conservancy, where she most recently initiated and led two multi-state watershed programs along the Savannah and Connecticut Rivers.

Charles McElligott has retired from Rabo AgriFinance after a 40-year career in the agriculture industry. He was working as the northwest regional managing director, a position he has held for the past decade. Nathan Thomsen took over McElligott’s role on Aug 1. He most recently worked as the company's eastern territory general manager, a role now held by Jan Pieter "JP" van Oosten.

John Leroy (Jack) Woolf Jr. passed away on July 28 at the age of 102. After attending Woodbury Business College in Los Angeles, Woolf joined Anderson Clayton Company in Los Angeles as a cotton merchandiser. In the spring of 1941, Woolf signed up for the Army. He was a member of the 204th Anti-Aircraft Battalion and landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. After returning home from the war, he returned to his position with Anderson Clayton Company. In 1947, he was sent to Mendota to partner with Giffen Inc., a successful west side farming operation. Woolf bought some land from Giffen in 1974 and started Woolf Farming Company, which he and his wife Bernice grew into a successful farming businesses in the Valley. He was involved with The National Cotton Council, The University of Santa Clara Board of Regents, and many other organizations. He helped establish the graduate agribusiness program at Santa Clara University and received an honorary doctoral degree from Fresno State. 

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