Doug_McKalip_1.jpgDoug McKalip, Biden's chief ag negotiator nominee

Ocean Mist Farms has hired Jenny Rivera as a new sales representative. For the last 12 years, Rivera worked at Dole Fresh Vegetables, most recently as a senior district sales manager. 

The Hass Avocado Board has expanded Gina Widjaja's role as director of marketing and communications. Widjaja has been with the board for 10 years. In her newly expanded role, Widjaja will oversee a staff that includes a senior digital strategist, a content manager, a graphic designer and a recently added registered dietitian, who will help expand marketing strategies.

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council has accepted the first cohort of fellows to the Blueberry Industry Leadership Program. The individuals are: Christina Butler, MBG Marketing; Gonzalo de Elizalde, Driscoll’s; Ernesto Diaz, Berry Brothers; Anna Jesse, Forest Hills Farms; Karan Kohli, Mastronardi Produce; Scott Mainord, WECO; Luke McCreesh, California Giant Berry Farms; Jennifer Pulcipher, North Bay Produce; Darren Sinn, Berry Fresh; and Micah Weiss, Fall Creek Farm and Nursery. 

President Joe Biden has nominated Doug McKalip to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. McKalip has served as Secretary Tom Vilsack’s senior adviser since April 2021, counseling Vilsack on matters related to trade, national security, and animal and plant health regulations. McKalip previously was a senior adviser at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; before that, he worked on rural affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration and filled several USDA positions such as legislative and public affairs director for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., has joined the House Agriculture Committee as the panel's newest member. Davids is currently serving her second term in Congress and also is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure and Small Business committees.

Katie Naessens has left the majority staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Naessens served as a senior professional staff member and covered the portfolio for agriculture education, research and extension, diversity and inclusion, local food systems, organic agriculture, and urban agriculture. Before joining the committee, Naessens was at USDA during the Obama Administration.

Ross Hettervig no longer works for the House Agriculture Committee, where he was communications director for the majority. Hettervig has been on the House Ag Committee under Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., for two years and before that worked for former Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., as his digital director and press secretary. 

David Ross has moved to the American Forest & Paper Association as the manager of government affairs. Ross previously worked on the House Administration Committee for Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., as a legislative assistant. 

Kelly Kanaras has joined the staff at the Pet Food Institute as the new director of communications. Kanaras previously worked at the National Asphalt Pavement Association as the director of awards and marketing. 

Ashley Willits is joining the team at Michael Torrey Associates as a policy manager. She previously worked at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as an associate director of policy communications. Before that, Willits worked at USDA for Secretary Sonny Perdue as the deputy director of external and intergovernmental affairs. 

Valent U.S.A. has annoAshley Willits.jpgAshley Willits, Michael Torrey Associatesunced several leadership appointments within the company’s sales and marketing departments, effective July 1. Matt Lawrence has been named director of retail strategy, a new role within the Valent sales organization. Lawrence joined Valent in 1998 and has held several key sales leadership positions including regional manager, Midwest commercial director and most recently director of strategic accounts. Trey Soud has been appointed director of distribution strategy, succeeding Lawrence. He joined the Valent marketing team over 11 years ago most recently served as the director of strategic marketing. BeckyJo Smith has been named associate director of Sustainable Solutions and Jesse Rosales has been tapped as associate director of strategic marketing and sustainability. Joe Short has been promoted to asset management lead. Valent is also conducting a national search for a new vice president of marketing to succeed Geoff Quick who has transitioned into a role leading global business development for Sumitomo Chemical AgroSolutions Division International.

Ellie Portillo has been promoted to government and institutional affairs analyst at Ferrero. Before joining Ferrero, Portillo worked for the American Farm Bureau Federation and American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.

Eric Harris has been named director of government relations and public affairs for Tetra Pak U.S. and Canada. Most recently, Harris was a principal at Lone Star Strategic Consulting in D.C. He has also held previous positions at the Recycling Partnership and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
Ten Acre Marketing has brought on Tricia Benedetto as the new creative director. Most recently, Benedetto led creative departments within food, giving and entertainment agencies such as Cool Nerds Marketing, Syndicate Strategies, and Bravo Business Media. 

UPSIDE Foods, a food technology company, has hired Sheetal Shah as senior vice president of supply chain and manufacturing. Shah previously served as the senior vice president of product and operations at Impossible Foods.

Michael Kreutzer has been added to the InnovoPro team as the chief commercial officer of North America. He most recently was the sales and marketing director of Novozymes.

Josh Jensen died on June 11 at his home in San Francisco. He was 78. Jensen is the founder of Calera Winery and helped pioneer the growing and making of pinot noir wine in California. Jensen studied anthropology at Oxford and while he was in Europe found a love and passion for wine. When he returned to California, Jensen was on a search for limestone soil, which he believed was crucial to growing quality Pinot grapes. He later settled atop of Mt. Harlan and planted three vineyards in 1975. In 1978, his wine began to gain popularity and Jensen trademarked the Calera clone of Pinot Noir and then expanded his operation. He later sold the winery to the Duckhorn Portfolio.

Don Funk died on June 9 from natural causes. Funk is a fourth-generation seedsman and grandson of seed industry pioneer, Edward Funk. At age 25, Funk took over the family business as president of Edward J. Funk & Sons. The company was later purchased by British Petroleum and in 1999, Funk started Channel Bio Corp. Now owned by Bayer, Channel is one of the major providers of corn and soybean seed to the U.S. market.

Baxter Black died at his home in Arizona on June 10 at the age of 77. Black was a cowboy poet who has published many books and appeared as a commentator on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” He was a large animal veterinarian before he became nationally-known as a poet. In the early 1980s, his folksy writing began gaining attention, starting with his first published poetry collection, 1980’s “The Cowboy and His Dog: or, ‘Go Git in the Pickup!’”

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