Michael Seyfert has been tapped to lead the National Grain and Feed Association as the new president and chief executive officer, succeeding Randy Gordon who will retire by the end of March after 43 years with NGFA. To read more on Seyfert, click here.

Michael Seyfert

Michael Seyfert

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Michael Regan, head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be Interior Secretary. To read more on the appointments check out this in-depth story.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added additional members of the White House COVID-19 Response team. Sonya Bernstein will be the COVID senior policy adviser, Bechara Choucair will be the vaccinations coordinator, Eduardo Cisneros will serve as the COVID intergovernmental affairs director, Clarke Humphrey the COVID digital director, Carole Johnson the testing coordinator, and Tim Manning the supply coordinator. Osaremen Okolo will be the COVID policy adviser, Cyrus Shahpar the COVID data director, and Courtney Rowe — a veteran of the USDA Office of Communications during the Obama administration — the director of strategic communications and engagement.

Carrie Castille has been named the permanent director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Castille served as an assistant professor and agriculture and natural resource leader at Louisiana State University as well as associate commissioner and senior adviser to the commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Montana Governor-elect Greg Gianforte has appointed Mike Foster to lead the Montana Department of Agriculture. Foster previously was the state executive director of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency, a position he has held since 2018.

Senator-elect Roger Marshall of Kansas has announced his senior staff hires. Michawn Rich has left the Department of Agriculture where she was Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s communications director to become Marshall’s new communications director. Pace McMullan will be legislative director. The last four years, he was the legislative director for Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. Tucker Stewart will serve as senior agriculture adviser. He served as associate counsel for the Kansas Livestock Association for the last six years. Marshall previously announced he would be keeping Brent Robertson as his chief of staff and Katie Sawyer as state director.

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., has announced staff for her D.C. office. Emily Hytha will be Fischbach’s new deputy chief of staff. Hytha previously worked as the communications director for the House Agriculture Committee and ranking member Mike Conaway, R-Texas. Nick Lunneborg will become the new legislative director. He previously worked on the staff of Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., as a legislative assistant covering the agriculture portfolio. Jake Schneider will serve as press secretary for Fischbach, Sean Murphy as a legislative assistant, Meghan Plotz as a legislative correspondent, Eleanor Traynham as scheduler and Rieder Grunseth as a staff assistant.

Carrie Castille

Carrie Castille

Vivian Moeglein will be the incoming staff director for the House Natural Resources Committee and Chris Marklund will be the deputy staff director. Moeglein currently is the chief of staff for Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. Marklund previously worked at USDA.

Riley Pagett has returned to Capitol Hill to work for Rep. Tracy Mann, R-Kan., as the new legislative director and counsel. Pagett previously worked at the Department of Agriculture.

Sonny Perdue’s deputy director of communications, Meghan Rodgers, has taken a new job with Global Cold Chain Alliance as the organization’s new vice president of public relations and industry affairs.

Meghan Cline has left Capitol Hill and is headed West to take on a new adventure later this month with JBS. Cline worked the last 5 years on the Senate Ag Committee, most recently as Sen. Pat Roberts', R-Kan., communications director.

After 33 years with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Ferd Hoefner has left the organization and has started his own consulting business called Farm, Food, and Environmental Policy Consulting.

Corteva has hired Sam Eathington as its new senior vice president and chief technology officer. Eathington previously worked for The Climate Corporation where he was chief science officer. He has spent nearly two decades focused on molecular breeding at Monsanto. Eathington holds more than 50 patents, patent applications, and publications.

Dana Bolden has left Corteva where he was the interim senior vice president of external affairs and communications. He has joined GSK as senior vice president of consumer health.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has hired Ashley Willits and Sigrid Johannes to its D.C. team as associate directors of communications. Willits formerly worked at the Department of Agriculture as deputy director of external and intergovernmental affairs and Johannes previously worked in the office of Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., where she led digital media strategy.

The American Peanut Council has selected Richard Owen as its new president and chief executive officer, effective Feb. 1. Owen worked at the Produce Marketing Association for the past 11 years.

Chuck Stones has been confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (FARMER MAC) board of directors. He previously was president of the Kansas Bankers Association until he retired in 2019.

Dr. Claudia Coplein has joined the Tyson Foods team in the newly created role of chief medical officer.

Anne Osborne has joined the National Wheat Foundation as a project manager, taking over responsibilities of the National Wheat Yield Contest. She will be replacing Steve Joehl, director of the National Wheat Yield Contest, who is retiring early this year. Osborne previously worked as a sales agronomist for the Farmers Union Oil Coop.

Mykel Wedig has joined the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative as the new associate director of government affairs. Earlier in her career, Wedig worked in the office of North Carolina Republican Richard Burr as well as on the House Agriculture Committee as a legislative assistant covering the livestock, food safety, biotechnology, and plant protection portfolios.

The US Grains Council has brought on Isabelle Ausdal as manager of ethanol trade policy and economics. For the past year, Ausdal has been a policy analyst with Strategic Conservation Solutions.

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program has selected Norma Ritz Johnson as the organization’s new executive director. Johnson most recently served as executive vice president for the Lubbock, Texas, Chamber of Commerce.

Tatum Lee-Hahn has been elected to the Kansas House of Representatives representing District 117. Lee-Hahn is the current R-CALF USA development director. She will take a leave of absence from R-CALF to fulfill her new duties.

Craig Ratajczyk has accepted the CEO position with Crop One Holdings (FreshBox Farms). Ratajczyk was the former CEO of the Illinois Soybean Association.

The Farm Credit Bank of Texas has elected Larry Boleman and reelected Jimmy Dodson to its board of directors, serving three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Boleman is a retired Texas A&M University executive and animal science professor. He and his wife operate Boleman Cattle Company, a cow-calf business with operations in Brazos and Burnet counties. Dodson was first elected to the board in 2003 and has served as board chair since 2012.

BASF has named Melanie Maas-Brunner as its new chief technology officer, effective Feb. 1., and will also become a member of the board of executive directors. She succeeds Martin Brudermueller in the role, but Brudermueller will remain on the board as chairman. Wayne Smith will be leaving the board effective May 31 and will be succeeded by Michael Heinz.

Rabobank appointed Tamira Treffers-Herreraand Robert Sinescu, to become co-heads of North American client coverage. Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of vice chairperson and head of the Atlanta office. She was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank's European Region from 2016-2020. Sinescu has been with the company for over 21 years and was previously general manager of Rabobank Canada.

The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs (US-RSPE) tapped Lankford Ruffin, director of environmental affairs and sustainability at Butterball, to be the new chairman of the board of directors. Ruffin succeeds Leigh Ann Johnston, director of sustainability at Tyson Foods. Johnston will now rotate to immediate past chair. Ernie Meier, director of quality for McDonald’s, was named chair elect.

After 20 years of Capitol Hill experience, John Dutton has left the office of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., where he most recently served as chief of staff.

Robert Spitzer has retired from the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service where he was a longtime trade negotiator.

Jeff Zimprich has retired as the South Dakota state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service after eight years in the job. He plans to return to his family farm near Brandon, S.D., and be an active member of the conservation community as an ag producer.

Former deputy secretary of agriculture during the Clinton Administration and former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Richard Rominger, died from a heart attack suffered at a restaurant in his hometown of Winters, Calif. He was 93. A pioneer in both commercial, conventional and organic farming, Rominger was known for his character, openness to humility, ability to teach and befriend others, and much more. In his day, he was a strong advocate for sustainable agriculture. To read more on Rominger’s career, click here.

Samuel A. Shanklin, a popular USDA chauffeur for 14 secretaries of agriculture and sub-cabinet officials over a 50-year government career, died Dec. 16 at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Virginia. He was 73. A Washington native, he joined USDA in 1968 after two years in the U.S. Army, including a tour as a truck driver in Vietnam. Following his retirement in January 2016, then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack ordered the installation of a plaque in Shanklin’s honor outside the chauffeurs’ office in USDA’s headquarters building. Many USDA alums and congressional staff members recall Shanklin’s upbeat good humor from his time delivering messages to House and Senate offices. “He became a dear, dear friend and steady, calming presence through my entire four years working in the Whitten Building,” said Dawn Riley, who was director of intergovernmental affairs and chief of staff to the deputy secretary in the first Bush Administration. “We stayed in touch all of these years.”

Ann Bornstein, a Washington native who worked as assistant director of the old National Farmers Organization (NFO) Washington office in the 1970s and later for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), died Dec. 23 in Raleigh, N.C., of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 80.

Neal Jack, a leading force behind Jack Bros., a founding member of the Western Growers Association, passed away on Dec. 15. He was 97 years old. Known to be a pioneer in the Imperial Valley, Jack was an advocate for water conservation. He was a World War II and Korean War veteran, and he used what he learned in the military to modernize farming by bringing many of the innovations used in the military back to the ranch.

Robert Slifer, age 98, died on Dec. 22 in Richfield, Minn. A World War II veteran, Slifer took a position with Monsanto Chemical Company and worked there for 30 years. He then took an early retirement and he and his wife opened and operated a winery, which they ran for 20 years. He was known to many as intelligent, responsible, quietly caring, willing to tackle a new adventure, and above all, someone who acted on his values.

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