Sandi Walters.jpegSandi Walters, Farm Credit Administration

The Farm Credit Administration has selected Sandi Walters as its new chief financial officer and director of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. She succeeds former CFO Steve Smith, who retired in December. Walters has been serving as acting CFO and acting director of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer since the FCA board appointed her to those positions on Jan. 31. Walters served as a finance officer at the U.S. Census Bureau for five years and as deputy CFO, and later CFO, of the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration for eight years. She also worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for more than 12 years, serving first as chief of the Accounting Operations Division and later as chief of the Business Management Fund Division.

R.J. Layher has joined the staff of the American Farm Bureau Federation as a director of congressional relations, where he’ll handle livestock and risk management policy. Layher’s career includes previous stops at USDA’s Risk Management Agency during the Trump administration and as an ag staffer on Capitol Hill for Illinois Republican Rep. Mike Bost. 

Michael Stein has joined the Democratic staff of the House Agriculture Committee. Stein will serve as professional staff covering rural development and research issues. He previously served as counsel for the House Small Business Committee. He received his law degree and a master's degree in environment and resources from the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to work on Capitol Hill, he was with the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Brandon Barnett has accepted a new job with the International Fresh Produce Association as government affairs manager. Barnett will start in his new role on May 2. He previously worked at Michael Torrey Associates as a policy and communications coordinator. 

Abigail Struxness has left the American Seed Trade Association, where she was the senior director of international programs and policy. Before joining ASTA, Struxness served as the policy and program manager at the Agriculture Transportation Coalition. Struxness has accepted a new job outside of farm policy.

Mitch Baker is leaving the office of Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., and headed back to his home state of Tennessee. Baker was a legislative assistant handling the portfolio for foreign trade and international finance, immigration, and international affairs. In his career, Baker worked for Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and was a confidential assistant at the Department of Agriculture during the Trump administration.

University of Arkansas System President Donald R. Bobbitt announced he will recommend Deacue Fields, currently dean of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas, as the next vice president for agriculture for the UA System. Pending formal approval from the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas in May, Fields is expected to take over the position July 1. Fields would succeed Mark Cochran, who announced last September he would retire from the post. Chuck Culver, the division’s assistant vice president and director for external relations, has been serving as the interim vice president. 

Deacue Fields III.jpgDeacue Fields, University of ArkansasThe Grower-Shipper Association of Central California (GSA) has appointed Victor Ramirez as the new vice-chair and Greg Beach as the new secretary of the board of directors. Ramirez and his brother founded NorCal Harvesting in 1995 and Bayview Farms in 1999. He is a third-generation strawberry farmer and grew up working alongside his parents and six siblings where he learned the technical aspects of farming. He has been a member of the GSA Board since 2018. Beach has spent his entire produce career with Steinbeck Country Produce and is the vice president of sales. Beach joined the board this year. In addition, Chad Amaral, vice president of D'Arrigo Bros., Kristina Nunes, food safety and sustainability director of Nunes Company, and John Wilkinson, co-founder of Blazer Wilkinson, were appointed to the GSA board of directors.


John-Campbell Barmmer died on April 18 at his home in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. He was 76. In his career, Barmmer held many senior leadership roles for over 20 years with Chiquita Brands. He was later tapped to lead the newly organized Chiquita Tropical Products group as president. Barmmer left Chiquita in 1989 and moved to south Florida to open his own floral import and marketing company. He also joined the Chestnut Hill Farms management team as director of business development. After announcing his retirement, Barmmer and his wife relocated to Pennsylvania. 

Former Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, died April 23 at age 88. A senator for 42 years, Hatch retired from office in 2019. He served as chairman of three major Senate Committees: the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee — now called the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Hatch’s priorities included tax reform, opening up foreign markets to American exports, and legislation intended to ensure the long-term sustainability of Social Security and Medicare.

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