President-elect Joe Biden has announced his nominees for and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts. Antony Blinken has been chosen as the next Secretary of State, Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been selected to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and former Secretary of State John Kerry has been tapped as the special presidential envoy for climate.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry

Former Secretary of State John Kerry

Biden also has announced his appointments to members of the White House Senior Staff. Reema Dodin was appointed as deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Dodin currently serves as a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Transition Team, leading legislative engagement for the confirmations process. She also serves as the deputy chief of staff and floor director to the Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Shuwanza Goff has been selected to serve as the deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Goff previously served as floor director for the House of Representatives under House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., has been elected as chairman of the Western Caucus for the 117th Congress. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has served in the chairman role for the last four years. The Western Caucus is a bipartisan coalition that advocates for rural, western, and resource-based communities. 

Tennessee native Stephen Vaden has been confirmed to be a judge of the United States Court of International Trade. Vaden has worked at USDA since 2018, most recently as general counsel.

The Senate confirmed the nominations of Robert Primus and Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board Nov. 18. Schultz, a Republican, was recently associate general counsel for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia’s commuter rail system. Primus, a Democrat, recently was chief of staff to Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., but spent 20 years on the staff of former Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., as legislative director and chief of staff while Capuano was on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was ranking member of its Railroad, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and 54 other agricultural organizations welcomed both confirmations in a Nov. 19 letter to Senate leaders. Congress expanded the agency to five commissioners from its previous three in 2015.

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association has added three people to the association’s staff. Mano Koilpillai has been hired as the new chief financial officer, Roxanna Barboza as industry and cybersecurity policy analyst and Lauren Gaydos as public relations manager. Before joining NTCA, Koilpillai was the founder and president of Dynamic Consulting and Accounting LLC. Barboza previously worked at USDA supporting its ReConnect Loan and Grant program. Gaydos left Capitol Hill where she worked as the communications director for Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Stephen Vaden

Stephen Vaden

Rabo AgriFinance has tapped Shawn Smeins to lead the business. Smeins has been with the company for 27 years and has served as interim head of Rabo AgriFinance since August, following the departure of Curt Hudnutt.

Karen Totland has been named the new vice president and chief sustainability officer for FMC. She previously served in the role of vice president of global procurement.

Amy Byrick has joined Novozymes as the new executive vice president of strategy and business transformation. She previously worked at DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences, where she led the global food and beverage business. Before that, she was at Amcor working in various strategic and marketing management roles.

The Seaboard Corporation has brought on Peter Brown to lead its Pork Division as the new president and CEO. He succeeds Darwin "Duke" Sand, who has announced that he will be retiring, effective Jan. 1. Bringing over 30 years of experience, Brown most recently served as chief operating officer of Butterball.

Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has promoted Annick Miller to staff director for the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife. Miller replaces William Ball, who recently departed the Committee. Miller joined the committee in 2019 as professional staff on the subcommittee. She previously served as senior policy adviser for several western water agencies, the National Water Resources Association, and was legislative staff for former Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

The World Food Prize Foundation has hired Austin Castillo-Leovan as the new program coordinator. He will assist the director of global programs and partnerships for the foundation’s global youth programs. Before joining the foundation, Castillo-Leovan was a program facilitator at Al Exito, where he co-facilitated a student run after-school programs for Latin/Hispanic youth.

Aurelie Poncet has joined the department of crop, soil and environmental sciences for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to Arkansas, Poncet was a post-doctoral researcher in the department of crop and soil science at North Carolina State University.

The National Biodiesel Board reelected Chad Stone, Renewable Energy Group Inc., as its chairman; Mike Rath, Darling Ingredients Inc., vice chairman; Rob Shaffer, American Soybean Association, second vice chairman; Ryan Pederson, North Dakota Soybean Council, treasurer; and Troy Alberts, Ag Processing Inc., secretary. 

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) named Steven Berglund, executive chairman, Trimble Inc., to chair its board in 2021. Robert Crain, senior VP and general manager North America, AGCO Corp., was named vice chair and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corp., was elected treasurer. AEM President Dennis Slater is the board secretary. The AEM Agriculture Board will be chaired by Todd Stucke, senior VP marketing, product support and strategic projects. Kubota Tractor Corp. Bill Hurley, VP aftersales, customer support and distribution development for AGCO, is the new Agriculture Board vice chair.

The National Association of Farm Broadcasting has elected new officers for 2021. Gale Cunningham of WYXY Radio has succeeded Rita Frazer of RFD Radio Network as the president. Agri-Pulse’s Spencer Chase is the incoming president-elect and Joe Gill of KASM has been elected national vice president. DeLoss Janke of the RFD Radio Network was elected as the organization's East Region vice president and Paul Murphy-Spooner of the United Soybean Board was elected as an Allied Industry Council representative. 

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) board confirmed a slate of officers last month. Kathryn Boor, dean and vice provost of graduate education at Cornell University, was reelected vice chair. Chris Mallett, former corporate VP of Cargill, was confirmed for another term as treasurer. Mark E. Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, will continue to chair the board. Doug Buhler, director of AgBioResearch and assistant VP for research and innovation at Michigan State University, was elected secretary to replace Mike Ladish, distinguished professor at Purdue University who resigned as an officer but remains a board member.

At its virtual annual conference last week, AgGateway announced awards for contributions in advancing the industry’s transition to digital agriculture. Ann Vande Lune, agronomy administrator at Key Cooperative, received the group’s top honor, the Ron Storms Leadership Award. Annual AgGateway in Action Awards went to Scott Meredith of ACS in North America, Patricia Perez-Fernandez of Lexagri-Homologa in Europe, and Adriano Becker of CNH in Latin America. The 2020 President’s Award went to Scott Nieman, expert enterprise architect at Land O’Lakes, recognizing his work in two AgGateway working groups.

Mindy Whittle

Mindy Whittle

After 23 years working for Monsanto/Bayer, Mindy Whittle has announced she is retiring from the company, effective Dec. 4. For the last 10 years, Whittle has served as the Oilseeds Industry Affairs Lead. In her retirement, she plans on exploring the world with her husband either by bike riding or hiking.

An international leader in rice research, Terry Siebenmorgen passed away Sunday at the age of 63. Siebenmorgen served as distinguished professor and director of the University of Arkansas Rice Processing Program, which he started in 1994. A rosary service will be held this Friday, November 27, at 10:30 a.m., at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, followed by the funeral at 11 a.m.

Iowa farmer and former president of the Iowa Soybean Association Bill Shipley passed away at the age of 61. Farming for 43 years, Shipley grew soybeans, corn, alfalfa and raised hogs on his family farm near Nodaway, Iowa. Passionate about on-farm conservation practices, Shipley and his family have adopted many practices to their operation and have been doing them for over 30 years including: implementing no-till, cover crops, and managing several miles of terraces and filter strips. Active in Iowa Soybean’s leadership, Shipley was serving as the district 7 director. He was also an active community member and was serving as commissioner on the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District as well as the Adams County Conservation Board. 

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