The next leader of the Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service was among a handful of staff announcements from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday morning.

Vilsack has tapped USDA veteran Daniel Whitley as the FAS administrator, elevating him from filling the role in an acting capacity. Whitley has been with FAS for more than 20 years; before his time as acting administrator, he was an associate administrator charged with leading the agency’s trade policy and market analysis teams, USDA noted in a release.

Prior to his time at FAS, Whitley also worked at USDA’s Economic Research Service on market access issues as well as the World Trade Organization.

In addition to Whitley, Vilsack also announced Michael Amato as the new communications director in USDA’s Office of Communications, Basil Gooden as the Rural Development director of state operations, and Marissa Perry as a speechwriter.

“The combined experience of Michael, Dr. Gooden, Daniel and Marissa will continue our efforts at USDA to effectively serve people in communities across the country — and around the world,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Each is an essential member of our growing team and we are grateful to have them serving in these roles.”

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Amato comes from Amato Advisors, a communications firm he founded. He also worked on the Biden-Harris transition team as the deputy lead on the general government appointments team and was the director of communications for the Office of Personnel Management during the Obama administration. Amato also has Capitol Hill experience as the minority communications director for the House Armed Services Committee and as a spokesman for Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wa.

Gooden most recently was a visiting scholar in the Sustainable Food Access Core of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also spent time as Virginia’s ag secretary and was the Virginia Rural Development state director during the Obama Administration.

Perry comes from the office of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, where she was the communications director after spending time as a press secretary.

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