A familiar face in farm policy is set to assume a key position on Capitol Hill. Fitz Elder will become the Republican staff director for the Senate Ag Committee, transitioning from his current role working with the chamber’s Rules and Administration Committee. Elder, who also has experience on Capitol Hill working for the Appropriations Committee and as a lobbyist with the Russell Group, will take over for Martha Scott Poindexter, who is taking a position with the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Fitz Elder

Fitz Elder

The Department of Agriculture has announced new senior staff appointments. Sanah Baig has been named chief of staff for USDA's Research, Education, and Economics mission area. She most recently served as chief of staff at the Good Food Institute. Alyssa Charney now serves as chief of staff for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She previously worked for Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., handling his agriculture and environment portfolio. Before that, she led conservation policy at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Meg Campbell is now the senior adviser for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. For the last 10 years, Campbell has been working in urban agriculture and recently has focused on designing and building permaculture garden beds. She has held roles at Campbell & Levine and Perkins Coie, where she practiced trust, technology and cybersecurity law. During the Obama-Biden administration, she served as special assistant to Jill Biden in the Office of the Vice President. Juan Bautista Dominguez will serve as advance lead in the Office of the Secretary. He brings several years of operational field logistics and communications experience, previously working on gubernatorial, Senate and presidential races. He has also served in senior adviser capacities for national and international nonprofit organizations focused on health care reform, climate change and economic development.

Tyson Foods recently promoted Chief Operating Officer Donnie King to be the company’s new president and CEO. He brings more than 36 years of experience in the protein sector as well as executive experience in areas ranging from food safety to supply chain issues. King will take over for Dean Banks; Tyson says Banks is leaving the company and board for personal reasons.

Donnie King

Donnie King

Cathy Burns and Tom Stenzel, the future co-CEOs of the combined Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Marketing Association, announced the senior leadership team that will be in place once the two groups merge at the beginning of 2022. Robert Guenther, currently the United Fresh senior VP of public policy, will be the new chief public policy officer. Yvonne Bull, currently PMA’s chief financial officer, will lead finance and human resources for the new group. Doug Bohr will lead education and business development programs as the new chief education and programs officer. Jennifer McEntire, currently the United Fresh senior VP of food safety and technology, will head up food safety and regulatory affairs. Max Teplitski will retain the chief science officer title he currently holds at PMA. Lauren Scott will be the group’s new chief strategy officer, and Miriam Wolk will serve as the new chief membership officer.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has named Joshua Snead as the new Republican chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee. For over five years, Snead has worked on the Trade Subcommittee under former Chief Trade Counsel Angela Ellard. Before that, he served as an associate for King & Spalding’s International Trade Group and also worked for the National Pork Producers Council.

Jess McCarron, a former spokesperson for Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow who also worked at the Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration, has joined Signal Group as a vice president in the firm’s strategic affairs practice.

The National Pork Producers Council hired Marie Bucko as the organization’s new science and technology adviser. Bucko, a trained veterinarian, was previously a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program as a policy analyst.

Jess McCarron

Jess McCarron

Beyond Meat has announced Phil Hardin as its new chief financial officer, Deanna Jurgens as the new chief growth officer, and Margaret “Jackie” Trask as chief people officer. Hardin comes to the company after 15 years at Amazon, where he served in finance and investor relations roles across various business units. Jurgens previously was responsible for sales across the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan as the chief global sales officer for skin care company Rodan and Fields. She has also held senior leadership roles with PepsiCo, Target, and Frito-Lay. Trask brings 14 years of experience leading human resources and employee processes after previously working for cosmetics company JAFRA Cosmetics International. She most recently served as senior vice president of worldwide human resources.

Aimpoint Research has brought on retired Col. Ken Gilliam, former director of strategic war gaming at the U.S. Army War College, as the new fusion leader. The Georgia native brings a 27-year career with the military to the position. Gilliam has been with Aimpoint since March 2021 under the U.S. Army's Career Skills Program. 

The World Food Prize Foundation has tapped Victoria Chia to be the organization’s senior director of international dialogues. A Harvard University graduate, Chia previously served as a program officer of the International Medical Corps.

Michael Helmer has joined the staff of Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, as a legislative assistant handling the portfolio for agriculture, animal welfare, energy, environmental protection, and science and technology issues. Helmer previously worked at the Department of Energy as a legislative affairs adviser.

Olivia Oo now serves as a legislative assistant for Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. She handles the portfolio for commerce, foreign trade, small business, telecommunications, transportation and public works. She previously served as the legislative director for Rep. Antonio Cárdenas, D-Calif.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has added Clare Carlson to the team as the regional director for south-central North Dakota, located in the Bismarck office. Carlson most recently served as the North Dakota state director for the USDA's Rural Development office, a role he held for more than 11 years across two separate terms.

Bill Northey, a Trump administration USDA undersecretary and former Iowa Ag Secretary, has joined the board of directors for Landus, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Ames. Northey joins the 12-member board as an outside director and will be asked to act as an advisor and coach on business and industry issues.

Neil Dierks

Neil Dierks, NPPC

Jacy Hauge now serves as the director of government affairs for the Nebraska Cattlemen. The North Dakota native most recently graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in agriculture communications.

Brad Karmen has retired from the Farm Service Agency after more than 41 years at USDA. During his time in Washington, Karmen worked on seven farm bills focusing on commodity, crop insurance and conservation programs. He has also worked for the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Karmen plans to work in the private sector on farm bill issues after his retirement.

Neil Dierks, who has led the National Pork Producers Council as the group’s CEO for the last 20 years, has announced plans to retire by the end of the year. Dierks plans to remain in his role until the organization completes a search for his successor and will remain as a strategic counselor during a transition period. NPPC has retained Korn Ferry to manage its search.

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