Daniel Whitley 1

Daniel Whitley

Team USDA may be lagging when it comes to Senate-confirmed appointees (see our page one story) but Secretary Tom Vilsack has recently named several new staff members. Daniel Whitley has been selected to be the new administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. Whitley has been with FAS for more than 20 years and most recently served as acting administrator, a position he has been in since December 2020. Before that, he was an associate administrator charged with leading the agency’s trade policy and market analysis teams.

In addition to Whitley’s appointment, 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. Amato most recently worked at Amato Advisors, a communications firm he founded. Before that, he 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. 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. Perry comes from the office of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, where she was the communications director after previously working as a press secretary.

Randy Moore was sworn in Monday as the 20th chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Moore, the first Black chief of the USFS, was previously a regional forester in California. 

President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Adrienne Wojciechowski as assistant secretary for congressional relations at the Department of Agriculture. Wojciechowski has worked in the Senate for the last 14 years, currently as professional staff for the Agriculture Subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Before joining the committee, Wojciechowski worked as a senior policy advisor for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., handling the agriculture, environment, forestry, and energy portfolio. She also worked as a professional staff member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator Kevin Shea has announced leadership changes that will take effect at the beginning of August. Rosemary Sifford has been tapped to be Veterinary Services (VS) deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer; Alecia Naugle will be VS associate deputy administrator; and Burke Healey will be executive director for VS Strategy and Policy division.

Bianca Moebius-Clune will lead American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Combat Climate Change Initiative as climate initiative director. Since 2014, Moebius-Clune served as the founding director of the soil health division at the Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Before joining NRCS, Moebius-Clune taught a class in sustainable soil management at Cornell University, where she was a senior extension associate and lecturer.

Hanna Abou-El-Seoud has been promoted to director of corporate affairs at Nestlé, where she was previously a government affairs manager. She also has worked at the American Soybean Association and Gordley Associates as director of international trade and public policy. She also served as professional staff for Sen. Debbie Stabenow on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Sarah Gallo

Sarah Gallo

Sarah Gallo has been promoted to vice president of agriculture and environment at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. She will serve as the primary liaison between the organization and the section board of directors and will lead the policy and market access strategies for BIO’s Agriculture and Environment Section. She joined BIO in 2018 to lead market access strategy for BIO’s food and agriculture members and before that, worked in government affairs and public policy for CHS Inc. and the National Corn Growers Association.

Lillie Zeng is the new press secretary for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Zeng joins the Committee from USDA, where she served as a public affairs specialist, social media manager, and speechwriter.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has promoted Autumn Lankford to manager of public policy. She previously served as executive administrator to the CEO. NASDA has hired Ellen Roth to fill Lankford’s previous role. Roth joins the NASDA staff from American Farmers and Ranchers (the Oklahoma affiliate of the National Farmers Union), where she served as the membership involvement and event coordinator. NASDA has also brought on Farrah Creer as the new coordinator of human resources and finance. Creer previously served as program coordinator for Consumer Direct Care Network in the healthcare industry.

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) have added Emily Anne Igli as the new development and operations specialist. Before accepting her new role, Igli completed a professional clerkship with Tyson Foods in its legal and federal government relations department. 

The North American Meat Institute has made a staff reorganization. Mark Dopp was tapped to become chief operating officer, Eric Mittenthal will assume the role of chief strategy officer, and Anne Halal will be the new chief experience officer.

The U.S. Grains Council promoted Jack Custard to manager of trade policy, located in the D.C. office, and has added Nayantara Pande to the Council as the marketing specialist in its South Asia office. Custard previously served as the trade policy and biotechnology coordinator. Pande previously worked with APCO Worldwide's policy division in India, assisting clients in a variety of sectors including biofuels, logistics, gender equality, retail and electricity. Before that, she was a lawyer practicing in the sectors of electricity, commercial arbitration and civil commercial disputes.

Jack Custard

Jack Custard

Mike Jaspers is the new interim executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. Jaspers is a former legislator and ag secretary in the state and is currently business development director for East River Electric. He takes over for Lisa Richardson, who resigned last week. Richardson and Teddi Mueller, formerly the legislative and marketing director, both left the organization last week after more than 20 years on the job in their respective roles.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, has appointed Andrea Travnicek, director of North Dakota Parks and Recreation, to lead the state’s Department of Water Resources. As a result of a House Bill passed during the 2021 legislative session, the Department of Water Resources will be the primary state water agency, replacing the State Water Commission. Travnicek was appointed Parks and Recreation director in April 2020, returning to North Dakota after three years of service at the Department of the Interior. At Interior, she served as principal deputy assistant secretary of water and science, assisting with overseeing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Effective Aug. 1., Paul Taylor, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, will become interim director of Parks and Recreation. The governor also appointed four new members to the State Water Commission: James Odermann, Connie Ova, April Walker and Gene Veeder.

Kyle Durham has been reelected chairman of Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. This will be Durham’s second and final one-year term as the Council’s chairman.

Cicely Batie has been hired as the new assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Batie most recently completed her Master of Science in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before receiving her Master's degree, Batie worked for Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., in her D.C. office, where she advised handled the agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, and trade policy portfolio.

Ashley Kraemer is now the communications director of the Minnesota Beef Council. Kraemer previously worked as a health and physical education teacher. Her family owns and operates a beef and crop farm near Osakis, Minn.

Wholesome Wave has selected Brent Ling to serve as chief of external affairs. Before joining Wholesome Wave, Ling was the executive director of Population Health Alliance.

The American Soybean Association has elected new officers to the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH). New to the Committee are Doug Darling of Michigan and Denny Mertz of Missouri. Serving as chairman is Gerry Hayden of Kentucky, vice chair is Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare of Illinois, treasurer is Bob Haselwood of Kansas, and secretary is Morey Hill of Iowa.

Sally Rockey has announced she will step down as executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research at the end of the year. Rockey joined FFAR in 2015 as executive director and previously worked at USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, now known as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Former Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., passed away July 26 surrounded by family after suffering a neck and rib injury from a bicycle accident. He was 77. Enzi served four terms in the Senate, retiring in 2020 as chairman of the Budget Committee. He was replaced by former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican. Before his Senate career, Enzi served as mayor of Gillette and served as a member of the state’s House and Senate. Formerly a member of the Wyoming National Guard, he also served on the Department of Interior’s Coal Advisory Committee.

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