Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed Julie Henderson as director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a role she has been covering as acting director since July. Before that, she served as deputy secretary of public affairs at CalEPA. She fills the role after Val Dolcini’s departure to advocate for the pesticide manufacturing industry as Syngenta’s head of business sustainability and government affairs in Washington, D.C. 

Julie Henderson Julie Henderson 

Newsom has also appointed Bidtah N. Becker as deputy secretary for environmental justice, tribal affairs, and border relations at California’s Environmental Protection Agency. A member of the Navajo Nation, Becker has served as the head of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources and is currently with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

 The California Association of Winegrape Growers has elected Tom Slater of Slater Farms in Clarksburg as chair of the board of directors. Slater succeeds Mike Testa of Coastal Vineyard Care as chair. Other members elected to the board include: Jeff Bitter, winegrape grower in Madera, vice chair; Gregg Hibbits of Mesa Vineyard Management in Templeton, vice chair; Jason Smith of Valley Farm Management in Salinas, secretary; and Kendall Hoxsey-Onysko of Napa Wine Co. and Yount Mill Vineyards in Oakville, treasurer.

The Association of California Water Agencies has tapped Pamela Tobin, who serves on San Juan Water District board of directors, to a two-year term as president of the statewide association. Cathy Green, who serves on the Orange County Water District board of directors, was elected vice president. Tobin succeeds outgoing ACWA President Steve LaMar, who serves on the Irvine Ranch Water District board of directors. Tobin was elected vice president of ACWA in 2019 after serving as chair of the ACWA Region 4 Board from 2018-2019. 

Ocean Mist Farms has hired Jeff Hutterer as the new director of value-added sales and Christa Schuck as the new sales representative. Hutterer previously served as director of retail sales at Mann Packing. Before joining Ocean Mist Farms, Schuck served as senior director of foodservice sales and was the national account manager at Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods.

Allied Grape Growers has named Pam Bond as its North Coast operations support. She previously worked for Swanson Vineyards and Winery in Oakville as director of vineyard and estate operations from 2010 to 2020 and as assistant vineyard manager from 2002 to 2010.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has announced he will retire from Congress at the end of the year to become the new CEO of former President Donald Trump’s new social media company. Nunes is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in 2021. 

The Department of Agriculture has announced key staff positions. Sean Babington was named senior adviser for climate in the Office of the Secretary. Most recently, Babington served as a senior professional staff to Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on the Senate Ag Committee where he handled the portfolio for forestry, pesticides, and climate change. Before that, he worked in the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., as senior policy adviser for Energy and Natural Resources. Anne Knapke has been promoted to deputy chief of staff for policy in the Office of the Secretary. Knapke joined the administration in February and most recently served as the deputy assistant secretary for congressional relations at USDA. Before that, she was a senior program officer focusing on nutrition and agricultural development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bidisha Bhattacharyya now serves as senior adviser for climate and conservation for farm production and conservation. Bhattacharyya previously served as the senior policy adviser in the Farm Service Agency. Cecilia Hernandez has been tapped to serve as the designated federal officer for the USDA Equity Commission. Hernandez returns to USDA after working in the General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy as a program manager on the President’s Management Agenda Team. Before that, she served in Office of Budget and Program Analysis at USDA.

Bryan Humphreys Bryan Humphreys

 The National Pork Producers Council has tapped Bryan Humphreys to be the organizations new CEO, effective Dec. 21. Humphreys currently serves as the senior vice president of the National Pork Board and was also a former employee of the National Pork Producers Council. 

The Senate has confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel, 68-31, to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission for a five year term starting from July 1, 2020.

Syngenta Group has appointed Feroz Sheikh as the new chief information and digital officer, effective Jan. 1. He will be based in Basel, Switzerland and succeeds Greg Meyers, who is leaving Syngenta Group at the end of January 2022 to return to the United States to pursue a new opportunity. Sheikh currently serves as the head of digital engineering and data science at Syngenta.

Martin Barbre has been named vice president of engagement and government relations for the farmer-led nonprofit Rural Investment to Protect our Environment (RIPE). Most recently, Barbre was CEO of MyAgData. Before that, he was appointed by former secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue to be administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency. 

The Agricultural Retailers Association has selected Ian McGregor of The McGregor Company as the new chairman of the board of directors. He succeeds Rod Wells with GROWMARK in the role and will serve a two-year term. 

Alexander Drotschmann Alexander Drotschmann 

Alexander Drotschmann has announced he will retire from KSW in Oct. 2022. Drotschmann has led KWS’ corn and soybean business in North and South America since 2014. In the upcoming months he will transition all operational responsibilities for South America effective Jan. 1 and the North America KWS and AgReliant board seats effective August 2022 to Nicolás Wielandt, head of business unit corn Europe. 

Shannon Mills has joined the office of Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii., as a legislative assistant covering the portfolio for agriculture and food and environmental protection. Mills previously served as manager of government and public services at Deloitte. 

Rebecca Jablonski-Diehl has joined the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis as a professional staff member under Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. Jablonski-Diehl previously worked at The Pew Charitable Trust as manager of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy. 

Heather Painter has joined Rep. Derek Kilmer’s, D-Wash., office as his new legislative director. Painter will handle the portfolio for immigration, taxation and telecommunications. Painter previously worked for Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., as a senior legislative assistant. 

Former Senate Republican Leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole died Sunday Dec 5. He was 98. Dole helped forge the rural-urban coalition that enacted the 1973 farm bill, which expanded the food stamp program to every political jurisdiction in the country. His wife’s Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced his death but did not disclose its cause or where he died. Dole disclosed earlier this year that he had begun treatment for advanced stage lung cancer.

Vernon Vierra of Willows, Calif., passed away on Nov. 28 at the age of 68. Vierra was the founding general manager of Sun Valley Rice, a position he held from 1999 to 2012. He recently worked for Rice Researchers and in 2006, he and his brothers began an almond farming enterprise aptly called “Vierra Brothers.” A funeral service will be held on Thursday, December 16, at the Maxwell Cemetery at 10 a.m. followed by a celebration of life afterwards at the Maxwell Legion Hall. Donations can be made in Vern’s memory to the Maxwell Cemetery, P.O. Box 201, Maxwell, CA 95955.

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