The Department on Agriculture has named senior staff positions in the D.C. office. Serving as deputy general counsel is Mary Beth Schultz, who previously was the chief counsel for the Democratic staff on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which she joined in 2017. Ny Whitaker is the new director of scheduling and advance in the Office of the Secretary. Whitaker has served as the senior adviser for New York state at the Democratic National Committee since September 2020. Before that, she worked as the Women’s vote director for the New York Democratic Party and the executive director of Emerge New York. Leslie Weldon now serves as acting chief diversity and inclusion officer in the Office of the Secretary. Previously, Weldon served as the chief executive for work environment and performance and was deputy chief for the National Forest System mission areas for the Forest Service. Deborah Swerdlow has been tapped to serve as chief of staff for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. Swerdlow comes to USDA from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where she most recently served as deputy director of state campaigns.

In other USDA news, Alberto Gonzalez is now the senior adviser for external engagement for the Food and Nutrition Service. Gonzalez most recently worked for UnidosUS as a senior strategist for health policy, where he worked on health and nutrition policy related to federal government programs. Alison Hard will serve as senior policy adviser for Food and Nutrition Service. Hard most recently worked on the House Committee on Education and Labor as a professional staff member for Chairman Robert Scott, D-Va. Before that, she worked at the National WIC Association as the federal government affairs manager and senior associate for federal government affairs. Jerry Chapin was tapped to be a senior counselor in the Office of the General Counsel. For the last three years, Chapin was the associate director in the Office of Federal and Regional Affairs in the Executive Office of the Mayor of Washington, D.C.

The Biden Administration has appointed eight individuals to state USDA posts. Serving as state executive directors for USDA’s Farm Service Agency are: Emily Cole, Connecticut; John Paterson, Ohio; Kelly Adkins, Texas; Eric Scherer, Rhode Island; and Gail Greenman, Oregon. Serving as state directors in Rural Development offices are: Thomas Carew, Kentucky; Michele Weaver, Utah; and Jill Floyd, Arkansas.  

The International Fresh Produce Association has selected Tamara Muruetagoiena as the director of sustainability, a newly created position. Most recently, Muruetagoiena served as the executive director of Great Mountain Forest, where she worked to promote conservation and sustainable forestry. Before that, she was the senior global manager in sustainability and R&D at Driscoll’s.

Mickie French.jpgMickie French

David Flakne has been tapped to lead Syngenta’s team for U.S. state affairs. He succeeds Dennis Kelly, who retired on April 1 after 44 years with the company. Flakne joined Ciba-Geigy in 1982 as a sales representative and has served as key account manager and district manager before joining the state affairs team in the early 1990’s. He has served as president of the MidAmerica CropLife Association and is a founding board member for the FieldWatch stewardship organization. He will also serve as the new chair of CropLife America’s State Affairs committee.

Mickie French has been tapped as the new executive director of The Center for Food Integrity, effective May 2. French succeeds Terry Fleck, who announced his retirement late last year. Fleck has served as executive director since the organization’s inception 15 years ago. French has held leadership positions with as The Coca-Cola Company, Mars Inc., Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. She most recently served as managing partner at CHANGE-x and before that was with the Indiana Soybean Alliance as a marketing and sustainability adviser.

Cary Sifferath has been promoted to vice president at the U.S. Grains Council. He previously served as senior director of global programs. Sifferath started his career with the council in 1993, as the manager of international operations for Asia. He then spent the next 19 years running four of the council’s overseas offices: Malaysia, Japan, China and Tunisia.

Coleman Garrison has joined the Senate Ag Committee as a professional staff member for Ranking Member John Boozman handling the conservation and climate titles. Before coming to Capitol Hill, Garrison was the government and pLeigh Picchetti .jpegLeigh Picchettiublic affairs director for the Irrigation Association and also worked for the National Association of Conservation Districts as the director of government affairs.

John Rainey has been named the new executive vice president and chief financial officer at Walmart, effective June 6. He joins the supermarket chain from PayPal where he was the CFO and executive vice president of global customer operations. Before that, he was with United Airlines.

Nutrien has promoted Leigh Picchetti to senior director, global brand and retail communications on the company's brand and culture communications team. Picchetti previously served as director of strategy and enablement on the company’s brand and culture communications team. Before joining Nutrien, she owned her own consulting business called LKP Consulting and served seven years with the Farm Credit System.

The Council of Producers and Distributors of Agrotechnology has hired Scott Rawlins and Johnnie Roberts. Rawlins will serve as director of government relations and Roberts will be the director of education, adjuvant chemistry. Rawlins was previously with Wilbur-Ellis as the director of regulatory and government affairs. Roberts most recently worked at Helena Agri-Enterprises as the director of formulation development and technical support.

Black Gold Farms has hired Mark Knight as the new chief operating officer to help implement its “Farm Better Strategy.” Knight previously spent the last 23 years at AgReserves, most recently as the general manager, Agri-Northwest.


Mark Knight .jpegMark KnightRebecca Kane is the new director of meetings for the American Feed Industry Association. Kane previously spent the last six years at the U.S. Grains Council as the organization’s meeting manager.


The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium has hired Damaris Canales as the new executive assistant. Canales brings 10 years of experience to the position and has previously worked for Tessler Developments, The Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center, and Sullivan & Cromwell.

Stefan Maupin has been named the new executive director of the Tennessee Soybean Promotion Council. He succeeds Parks Wells, who spent 30 years with the organization and will move to the role of executive director emeritus. Maupin previously worked the last 27 years for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, the last 10 as director of public policy.

Carter Purcell has left Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Purcell was the communications and membership manager. She plans to pursue a graduate degree this summer.

Former Nebraska Congressman and House Ag Committee member Brad Ashford passed away on April 19 after battling brain cancer. He was 72. Ashford was elected to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District in 2014 after serving 16 years in the Nebraska state Senate. Before that, Ashford worked as a judge for the Nebraska Court of Industrial Relations, an attorney for the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, and as executive director of the Omaha Housing Authority. Ashford served one term in the House.

Former editor of Wallaces Farmer and Iowa Farmer Today, Robert (Bob) Dunaway died April 11 at the age of 77. Dunaway specialized in writing about tax and financial management. He was with Wallaces Farmer magazine for 18 years, a columnist for Iowa Farmer Today for nearly 20 years. A celebration of life will be held Saturday, June 4, from 2-5 p.m. at Terrace Hills Golf Course (8700 NE 46th Avenue, Altoona). 

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