Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have won their Georgia Senate runoff elections, beating Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Loeffler was sworn into Congress on Jan. 6, 2020, filling the seat vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned due to health concerns. Perdue has been a Georgia senator since 2015.

Everett Hoekstra has retired as president of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA and has been succeeded by Randolph Legg. Legg will remain head of the company’s U.S. commercial business while serving as president. The company has also appointed Helmut Finkler as head of regional bio manufacturing Americas and global manufacturing science and technology. He will oversee vaccine-production sites in the Americas. Finkler most recently served as head of global bio operations in global operations animal health.

President-elect Joe Biden announced Ambassador Samantha Power as his nominee for Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and elevated the position to become a member of the National Security Council. Ambassador Samantha Power served in the Obama-Biden Administration Cabinet from 2013 to 2017 as the 28th U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Rob Rosado

Rob Rosado

Rob Rosado will be joining the International Dairy Foods Association as senior director of legislative affairs, effective Jan. 19. Rosado comes to IDFA from Capitol Hill where he worked on the Senate Ag Committee as a senior professional staff member for nutrition and specialty crops policy.

The American Soybean Association has hired Ariel Wiegard to handle the group's conservation, precision agriculture and nutrition portfolios. Wiegard is a veteran of Syngenta and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. According to ASA, she'll round out the organization's new D.C.-based government affairs team. 

Trey Forsyth has joined Michael Torrey Associates as the new director of government affairs. Forsyth joins MTA after serving as a policy adviser to chief agricultural negotiator Gregg Doud at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Before that, Forsyth worked for Land O’Lakes.

Trey Forsyth

Trey Forsyth

Morgan Beach has been promoted to director of public affairs at the Pet Food Institute. She has been with PFI for two years and has also worked for the National Milk Producers Federation.

Faith Vander Voort has returned to Capitol Hill to join the staff of newly elected Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., as his communications director. Vander Voort previously worked at the Department of the Interior, most recently as the deputy director of the office of congressional and legislative affairs.

Michael Zona has left Capitol Hill and has taken a new job with Bullpen Strategy Group as its new vice president. Zona most recently was the Senate Finance Committee majority’s communications director as well as communications director for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Craig Buttars has been appointed Utah’s commissioner of agriculture and food by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. Buttars most recently served as the Cache County Executive from 2015 until 2021. He succeeds Logan Wilde.

The Renewable Fuels Association has brought on Troy Bredenkamp as the new senior vice president of government and public affairs, effective Jan. 19. Bredenkamp currently serves as the executive director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska. He replaces Jessica Bennett, who is departing RFA after three years of service. RFA also added Gidel Dawson as its new Manager of Government Affairs and announced a new title for Ed Hubbard, who will serve as the organization's general counsel and vice president of government affairs.

Smithfield Foods has announced new executive leadership appointments, following Dennis Organ’s promotion to president and CEO in late 2020. Organ previously served as the chief operation officer. Russ Dokken has been appointed to chief sales officer. He most recently was the executive vice president of U.S. packaged meats. Keira Lombardo has added the title of chief administrative officer and will lead the company’s administrative operations, including corporate communications, external affairs, government affairs, human resources, investor relations, and legal and sustainability functions. She joined the company in 2002. Scott Saunders was appointed to chief supply chain officer. He has over 30 years of experience at Smithfield, with previous roles including executive vice president of U.S. supply chain and president of the fresh pork division. Shane Smith was appointed chief strategy officer. He joined Smithfield Foods in 2003 and previously served as executive vice president of European operations. Brady Stewart has been elevated to chief manufacturing officer. In 2019, Stewart was promoted to executive vice president of U.S. hog production. Joe Weber is now the chief commodity hedging officer. He joined Smithfield Foods in 1994 and most recently served as executive vice president of growth and emerging business. Glenn Nunziata will continue in his role as chief financial officer. Five individuals have been promoted to executive vice president: Luis Cerdan was appointed to executive vice president of European operations, Jamie Dik will be the executive vice president of fresh meats, Steve France is now the executive vice president of packaged meats, Mark Hall was promoted to executive vice president of finance, and John Sargent is now the executive vice president of hog production. Smithfield also announced the retirements of four outgoing leaders. Dhamu Thamodaran, executive vice president, chief strategy officer and chief commodity hedging officer, will retire after a 35-year career at Smithfield. John Pauley will retire after 20 years of service. He most recently was the chief commercial officer of packaged meats. He joined Smithfield Foods 20 years ago as president of Curly's Foods, Saratoga Spice, and Iowa Quality Meats. Bill Michels, senior vice president of operations for packaged meats, will retire after four decades of service. Michael Cole, senior adviser to the chief executive officer and corporate secretary, will retire after 24 years of service. Cole joined Smithfield Foods in 1996 as its only corporate attorney.

Jenny Maloney has been promoted to global-Americas strategic accounts manager for Bayer CropScience-Vegetable Seeds. She previously worked as the food stakeholder manager for Bayer. Before that, she worked for John Deere as the senior manager of water policy and international affairs.

Aaron Stauffacher has left Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and is headed back to his hometown to practice law in Darlington, Wis. Stauffacher was the associate director of government affairs at Edge and the Dairy Business Association.

Daniel Davis’s last day at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be Jan. 15. Davis serves as the general counsel and head of the legal division. Davis will be taking a new job in the private sector.

Christopher Chaffee has left the White House, where he served as the director of food and agricultural outreach in the Office of Public Liaison. Chaffee was at the White House for the last three years.

The American Egg Board has hired Mike Koenigs to join the team in the newly created role of chief outreach and operations officer. Most recently, Koenigs served as vice president at global PR agency Weber Shandwick.

Kaleb Rathbone has been promoted to assistant commissioner for Western North Carolina agricultural programs and small farms, and Teresa Lambert has been promoted to director of the research stations division at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Rathbone replaces Bill Yarborough, who retired as special assistant to the commissioner. Lambert will fill the role created by Rathbone’s promotion.

The Organic Trade Association has hired Lisa Braun as the new sustainability technical services manager for OTA’s new Sustainable Food Trade Action Council. Braun previously was the sustainability technical services manager for the Sustainable Food Trade Association.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has brought on Andrea Ortega as the new communications coordinator. Ortega has worked at the Tubac Chamber of Commerce and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and most recently was an entry specialist for GOCM LLC, where she worked as a liaison between the U.S. Custom and Boarder Protection and the company to track imports and exports of company products.

The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs and the International Poultry Welfare Alliance has announced Candace Bergesch will be joining the team as the new director of communications for both organizations. Most recently, Bergesch worked as a public relations supervisor at marketing and advertising agency Osborn Barr Paramore.

Candace Bergesch

Candace Bergesch

Idaho Potato Commission has added Mark Daniels, a produce veteran with 35 years of industry experience, as the new retail promotion director-Southeast. He will be based in Savannah, Ga.

Neil DeStefano has started his own business called Neil DeStefano Consulting, focused on helping clients with strategy, portfolio expansion, business development and marketing communications. DeStefano had a 43-year career in the agricultural chemical industry and most recently was director of portfolio management, business development and marketing communications with AMVAC.

Hargrove and Associates, an Association of Equipment Manufacturers subsidiary, has added Todd Snell as the company’s new vice president and chief operating officer. Snell previously served as a lead representative of Deere & Company in the AEM Statistics Program, and retired from the company in early 2020.

The Cotton Board has hired Grant Saum as its new Mid-South regional communication manager, covering the territory of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Saum previously worked as a district sales manager for GreenPoint Ag in Alabama and Southern Mississippi.

Farm broadcaster Henry Arthur (Art) Sechrest Jr. died Jan. 4. He was 82. Sechrest was a former president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. He was inducted into the NAFB Hall of Fame in 2000, and has won two Oscars in Agriculture. His radio career was cut short after he suffered a stroke in 1994. He was known for professionalism and kindness on and off the air.

Helmut Claas, managing director, chairman of the supervisory board and chairman of the shareholders' committee of the CLAAS group, has died at the age of 94. Claas studied agriculture in Paris and joined his parents' small agricultural machinery firm in 1958, where he was later promoted to managing director. In 1996, as part of the restructuring of the firm into a joint-stock company, he changed from the role of managing director to chairman of both the supervisory board and the shareholders' committee. 

John Charles Foltz passed away after complications of COVID-19 on Jan. 7. He was 87 years old. A Navy veteran, Foltz became the director of the FFA Foundation and also served as the deputy undersecretary for congressional relations at the USDA. He then took an assignment with the Foreign Agricultural Service as assistant administrator for market development and traveled around the world promoting American farm products.

Dr. Wilberforce Kisamba Mugerwa passed away after complications due to COVID-19. At the time of his death, he was the chancellor of Ndejje University and chairman of the National Planning Authority of Uganda (NPA). Mugerwa was the director of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s International Service for National Agricultural Research Division from 2004 to 2008, he was a member of Parliament and served in several different cabinet minister positions for the government of Uganda.

Bruce Benschoter died on Jan. 11 from the effects of COVID-19. Benschoter began his career in 1960 with The Pillsbury Co., and later joined Vanice Grain, which was later acquired by Bunge. He retired from Bunge, and then joined Farmland Industries, which later merged with ADM. He retired from ADM in 2005, and then joined DeBruce Grain where he assisted with special projects.

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