Martha Scott Poindexter will be returning to the Senate Agriculture Committee as staff director for GOP Sen. John Boozman. Poindexter previously led the committee staff from 2005-2010 under Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss. She has served on staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and most recently was vice president for government and industry affairs for Bunge. To learn more about Poindexter, watch her Meet the Farm Hand interview.

Martha Scott Poindexter

Martha Scott Poindexter

The American Seed Trade Association has hired Senate Ag veteran Janae Brady as its new senior director of government affairs. Brady previously served on Sen. Pat Roberts', R-Kan., Ag Committee staff as a senior professional staff member. She advised Roberts on issues related to international trade, agricultural research, biotechnology, crop protection and agricultural defense. Before the committee, Brady worked on trade and food security policy issues at Gordley Associates.

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Rep. Marcia Fudge to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to media reports. Prior to the offer to lead the housing agency, Fudge, a member of the House Ag Committee, had been in the running to lead the Agriculture Department. Several other media outlets are reporting that former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be Biden’s pick for USDA.

The House Republican Steering Committee has identified and selected the representatives to serve as ranking members in the 117th Congress. Leading the Republicans on the House Ag Committee is Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania. Thompson previously served as vice chairman of the Agriculture Committee and most recently as ranking member of three of its subcommittees. Heading up the Energy and Commerce Committee is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. She served as chair of the House Republican Conference for six years, and is currently the co-chair of the Rural Health Caucus. Rep. Kay Granger, Texas, was tapped to lead the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas, will lead the Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois, has been selected to lead the Veterans Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture Committee.

Heath Tarbert, Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman, has announced the names of the 22 members to serve on the Agricultural Advisory Committee’s new Agricultural Futures Contracts with Open Interest Subcommittee. The subcommittee will be chaired by Joseph Janzen, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois. To view the full listing of members added to the subcommittee, click here.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has brought on Ronald “RJ” Karney, Jr. as the new senior director of public policy. Karney most recently served as director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. Karney brings experience in the areas of rural development, broadband, appropriations and budget, and other financial security issues impacting farmers and ranchers. He started with NASDA on Monday.

Ronald “RJ” Karney, Jr.

Ronald “RJ” Karney, Jr.

Samuel Kieffer is headed to the American Farm Bureau Federation to be the new vice president of public affairs. He currently serves as the chief administrative officer for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. He has been with PFB since 2005 and also is a 12-year veteran of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, where he served as a logistics officer. Kieffer starts with AFBF in January.

The Missouri Farm Bureau selected Garrett Hawkins to serve as the organization's 15th president. Hawkins is a third-generation farmer from the St. Clair County area. He succeeds Blake Hurst, who announced in July that he would not seek reelection after 10 years at the helm. Hawkins previously led the policy development process and national lobbying efforts for 15 years as the director of national legislative programs. To read more on Hawkins’ career, click here.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau has elected dairy farmer Kevin Krentz as its new president and leader of the Rural Mutual Insurance Company. Krentz has been on the board of directors since 2012 representing District 5. Krentz succeeds Joe Bragger, who will continue to serve on the board as a Region 4 director. Dave Daniels was reelected to serve as vice president.

Kaleb Little has been named the new CEO of the Kansas Soybean Association and administrator of the Kansas Soybean Commission. Little most recently served as the director of communications for the National Biodiesel Board. He had been with NBB for the past 10 years in various communications roles.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman-elect Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., has named Sean V. O’Brien as the organization’s new executive director for the 117th Congress. He succeeds Tim Charters, who will continue to serve the Western Caucus through the 116th Congress, ending Jan. 2. O’Brien currently serves as the deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Newhouse and handles the energy, forestry, and natural resources portfolios. His portfolio also includes Newhouse’s work on the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee.

Sarah Grace Fowler has been promoted to associate director of communications for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and will handle all communications related to NASDA. Amanda Culp has transitioned her role to handle events for the association and is now the senior director of events.

Lisa Safarian

Lisa Safarian

Lisa Safarian is stepping down from her post as president of crop sciences of North America for Bayer. Safarian has worked in various positions the past 30 years, holding roles with Bayer and Monsanto. Brett Begemann will step in as interim lead for the crop science business for the U.S. and Canada until a long-term solution is put in place.

Sarah Dean has taken a new role at John Deere, now working as the global public policy manager. She previously was the senior manager of international affairs. Dean has been with John Deere for 11 years.

Indigo Ag has tapped Maria Belousova as the new chief digital officer and Elizabeth Graham as the chief operating officer. For the past six years, Belousova served as chief technology officer for Grubhub. Graham most recently served as president of Notarize, a fintech startup.

The American Agricultural Law Association has selected Tyler Buswell of Utah to serve as its new president-elect. Ashely Ellixson of Arizona and Paul Goeringer of Maryland have also joined the board as new directors. Buswell succeeds Pat Dillon of Iowa, who will become the immediate past president.

The Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) has elected its 2021 officers. Jonathan Miller, of Kentucky, was elected chairman. He previously served as STC’s secretary-treasurer from 2019-2020. He also serves as a director on the Kentucky Soybean Association. Chris Brossart, of North Dakota, was elected to serve as vice chairman and Tim Gottman, of Missouri, was elected secretary-treasurer. 

The National Chicken Council has brought on Polina Burko as the new director of meetings and member services. Burko brings 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, with a focus on event planning and management. The native of Russia is currently perusing her master’s degree in Business Administration.

The International Poultry Council has reelected Robin Horel as president for 2021. Horel serves as president of the Canadian Poultry & Egg Processors Council. Ricardo Santin has been selected to serve as vice president. He serves as vice president of the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein. Jim Sumner, president of Poultry Export Group, will serve as treasurer.

The Plant Based Foods Association has added three new members to its 2021 board of directors: Armetha Pihlstrom, National Account Manager, Impossible Foods; GW Chew, Founder and CEO, Something Better Foods; and Sadrah Schadel, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, No Evil Foods. Their terms begin Jan. 1.

National Association of Conservation Districts has named Michael Wilson this year’s recipient of the Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Conservationist of the Year Award.      

Gene Gregory

Gene Gregory

After a 40-year career at Purdue University, Chris Hurt has announced he is retiring. Hurt joined the agricultural economics department in 1981 and taught undergraduate courses related to livestock and meat marketing. He also specialized in areas related to family farm market problems and pricing strategies, livestock futures market problems and pricing strategies, and livestock futures market performance. In extension education, Hurt provided analysis for participation in government programs, taught marketing principles and alternatives, evaluated the livestock industry structure, and provided price analysis and outlook of live cattle and live hogs. He is widely known for his extensive and diverse outreach through the Extension network. Throughout his career, Hurt published numerous articles and served on the editorial board and as editor of the Purdue Ag Economics Report.

Gene Gregory, former president and CEO of United Egg Producers (UEP), passed away Dec. 3. Gregory began his career in the 1950s, working for Corn Belt Hatcheries in Gibson City, Ill., where he eventually worked his way up to vice president and general manager. In 1970, Gregory started serving on committees for the Midwest UEP and eventually chaired the producer committee for animal welfare. In 1992, Gregory was tapped to serve UEP as its senior vice president and in 2007, he was appointed UEP president and CEO. A memorial service will be held in Gibson City, Ill., in early 2021. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the First Baptist Church of Gibson City, 628 South Church Street, Gibson City, IL 60936.

For more news, go to