President-elect Joe Biden has asked Tom Vilsack to return to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Ag Secretary. Vilsack served as secretary for eight years during the Obama Administration, and is currently the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. To read more on Vilsack, click here.

Biden has also selected Katherine Tai to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. Tai currently serves as the chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee. During the Obama Administration, Tai worked at USTR as the chief counsel for China enforcement. To learn more about Tai, click here.

Katherine Tai

Katherine Tai

President-elect Joe Biden also announced plans to nominate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary, the president-elect said in a statement on Tuesday. Several media outlets are also reporting that Biden will name Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, as secretary of energy, and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to lead a newly created Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

Seth Meyer will be returning to the Department of Agriculture to assume the position of chief economist. Meyer takes the place of Rob Johansson, who has held the position since 2015 and plans to depart USDA at the end of January and accept a position as the associate director of economics and policy analysis at the American Sugar Alliance. Meyer comes from the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, where he served as an associate director and research professor. To read more on Meyer, click here.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has announced new leadership changes in the department. Alan Dowdy, associate deputy administrator for policy management in Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ), is retiring, and Matt Royer, currently PPQ’s associate deputy administrator for field operations, will succeed Dowdy. Steve Bennett, currently executive director of the Emergency Management, Safety, and Security Division and Investigative and Enforcement Services, will move to Veterinary Services as one of the program’s associate deputy administrators. Ibrahim Shaqir, currently Biotechnology Regulatory Services’ (BRS) associate deputy administrator, will move to PPQ as the associate deputy administrator for trade. Jessica Mahalingappa, currently International Services’ (IS) associate deputy administrator, will join BRS as their associate deputy administrator. Valerie Defeo, a recent Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program graduate who works in PPQ, will become IS’ associate deputy administrator. Darya Chehrezad, currently a Senior Foreign Service Officer in Mexico, will begin a domestic rotation as associate deputy administrator for Trade and Capacity Building in IS. Doug Nash, Marketing and Regulatory Programs Business Services’ (MRPBS) deputy administrator, is also retiring and Robert Huttenlocker will return to APHIS from USDA’s Office of the Inspector General as MRPBS’ deputy administrator, a role he previously held in 2017.  

Incoming House Ag Committee Ranking Member Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., has announced Parish Braden will be the Republican staff director of the House Agriculture Committee. Braden currently serves as Republican staff director for the House Committee on Natural Resources. Braden has served as deputy staff director and communications director for the Natural Resources Committee. Before that, he served as communications director and policy adviser to Rep. Thompson.

Elizabeth Rowland has been promoted to the chief human resource and program officer at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). She most recently was NASDA's director of human resources.

Elizabeth Rowland

Elizabeth Rowland

Michael Almond has been appointed to the newly created position of chief lending officer at the Farm Credit of the Virginias (FCV). He most recently worked as the regional manager of Carolina Farm Credit.

Mark McHargue has been tapped to lead the Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) as president. McHargue succeed Steve Nelson, who retired from the position after nine years as president. A fourth-generation farmer, McHargue served as the first vice president of NEFB, chairing both the political action committee and the state legislative policy committee since 2011.

Benjamin Perkins will be the new CEO of Wholesome Wave. He brings over 20 years of experience as a public health professional, most recently working for the American Heart Association as the vice president of health strategies.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has selected its 2020 Governing Committee: Kevin Scott, S.D., president; Bill Gordon, Minn., chairman; Brad Doyle, Ark., vice president; Daryl Cates, Ill., secretary; Stan Born, Ill., treasurer. At-large members include: Josh Gackle, N.D., Caleb Ragland, Ky., George Goblish, Minn., and Dennis Fujan, Neb. John Heisdorffer, Iowa, has retired from the board and Jeff Jorgenson, Iowa, has been selected to serve a nine-year term on the board.

The United Soybean Board has elected Dan Farney, Ill., as the chair of the board for 2021. Newly elected officers to serve on the executive committee are as follows: Ralph Lott II, N.Y., vice chair; David Iverson, S.D., secretary; Meagan Kaiser, Mo., treasurer; and Mark Seib, Ind.; Rochelle Krusemark, Minn.; Tom Oswald, Iowa; Belinda Burrier, Md.; Steve Reinhard, Ohio; and Ed Lammers, Neb. Jim Carroll III, Ark., will serve as past chair.

Brandon Harder

Brandon Harder

Congressman-elect for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District Tracey Mann has announced his senior staff, starting in their official capacity on Jan. 3. His chief of staff will be Brandon Harder. He most recently served as the director of government relations and communications at the Farmers' Rice Cooperative. He also served as Sen. Jerry Moran’s agriculture and trade adviser. Reid Petty will serve as Mann’s district director. Petty most recently worked as Moran's Southwest Kansas District Director.

The Hill has released its annual list of top lobbyists and among it were a few familiar faces in the agriculture industry: Mike Parrish, Bayer US; Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association; Kip Eideberg, Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Nicholas Giordano, National Pork Producers Council; Emily Skor, Growth Energy; Mary Kay Thatcher, Syngenta; Andrew Walmsley, R.J. Karney and Scott Bennett, American Farm Bureau Federation; John Bowman and Alexandra Adams, Natural Resources Defense Council; Carrie Calvert, Feeding America; Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group; Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund; Ryan Weston, Sugar Cane League; Candace Spencer, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Abigail Blunt, The Kraft Heinz Co.; and Bob Filippone, Merck & Co.

Jamison Cruce and Elise Stoddard were married Saturday in a private ceremony on the National Mall. Cruce is a director of government affairs for the USA Rice Federation and Stoddard is a managing director for leadership development at the American Farm Bureau Federation. 

Aimpoint Research has hired Tommy Batts as a research analyst. Batts holds a master of science in marketing research from Michigan State. Jack Lumpe was brought on as operational excellence coordinator. He is a recent graduate of Gannon University. Eric Williams has been hired as the newest Agri-Food WatchDesk analyst. He most recently worked as a contractor for American Electric Power.

AgGateway has announced the individuals selected to serve on the 2021 leadership team. Leading the board of directors as chair is Adriano Becker, CNH Industrial. He takes over responsibilities from Jeremy Wilson, EFC Systems, who will now sit on the board as past chair. Karen Thomas, Southern States Cooperative, was elected treasurer. Leading the 2021 Steering Committee for North America is Ann Vande Lune of Key Cooperative, and vice-chair is Michael Carrabine of International Raw Materials. Leading the 2021 Steering Committee for Europe is Feroz Sheikh of Syngenta. To view the full list of individuals selected to be on the board of directors and steering committees, click here.

CHS Inc., has elected new officers to serve on its board of directors. Dan Schurr will be the new chair, C.J. Blew will serve as first vice chair, Jon Erickson as second vice chair, Russ Kehl as secretary-treasurer, and Steve Riegel as assistant secretary-treasurer.

Dave Vander Griend has returned to the board of directors for Growth Energy. Vander Griend is a co-founder of Growth Energy and is the CEO of ICM. He also serves as the president of the Urban Air Initiative.

USDA has appointed 28 members to serve on the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. All appointed members will serve a three-year term beginning in February. The appointed members are: Caleb Plyler, Ark.; Sallie Miller, Colo.; Sarah K. Childs, Fla.; Tucker Shaw, Idaho; Philip L. Perry, Kan.; Trista Brown Priest, Kan., Andy Bishop, Ky.; Leon James, Mo.; Katie Sue Cooper, Mont.; Turk Stovall, Mont.; Gina M. Hudson, Neb.; Steve Wolfe, Neb.; Bill Baldwin, Neb.; Raymond Erbele, N.D.; Cheryl DeVuyst, Okla.; Jimmy Taylor, Okla.; Daniel M. Kniffen, Pa.; Bill Slovek, S.D., April Bonds, Texas; J. Ryan Moorhouse, Texas; Mark Brent, Texas; Michael White, Texas; Steve Springer, Wis.; Melissa Daniels, Calif.; Jeffrey Isenmann, Mich.; Kimberly A. D’Anella, N.J.; Rob Williams, Md.; and Stephen Sothmann, D.C., (one-year term).

South Dakota farmer Lance Hourigan has been tapped to lead the National Sunflower Association as board president. He succeeds North Dakota farmer Clark Coleman.

After 40 years serving in the agriculture community and working in the Farm Credit system, Tim Tracy has announced he is retiring as chief credit officer of Compeer Financial. His career began in 1977 as a loan officer with the Federal Land Bank in Omaha after graduating from Northern State University. He held many roles at Compeer and the former AgStar Financial Services, including loan officer, vice president of commercial lending, vice president of business solutions and senior vice president chief risk officer. His last day will be Dec. 28. Bill Moore, current chief risk officer at Compeer, will take over Tracy’s responsibilities and lead the organization. Moore has been with the company for the past seven years.

National Corn Growers Association Communications Director Mark Lambert says he will retire Jan. 15 after a 44-year career in journalism and communications for NCGA and the Illinois Corn Growers Association. 

Robert S. Bloxom Sr., Virginia’s first-ever secretary of agriculture and forestry, died Dec. 13 at his home in Mappsville, Va. He was 83. Bloxom was a long-time member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing counties on the state’s Eastern Shore peninsula from 1978 through 2003. After he declined to seek a 14th term, his son Robert S. Bloxom Jr. was elected to his seat. His legislative focus was on agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay. Bloxom, a Republican, was known for his ability to work across party lines. Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, created the Cabinet position for agriculture and forestry and appointed Bloxom to it in 2004. At the time, Virginia was one of only five states without a Cabinet-level agriculture secretary. Warner's successor as governor, now-Senator Tim Kaine, reappointed Bloxom.

Nelson Denlinger, former trade policy expert for U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), has passed away. In his career, he joined the Neighborhood Youth Corps and USAID. He later worked on Capitol Hill, joining the staff of former Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn. Denlinger later went on to become the staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee before joining USW.

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