The Department of Agriculture has announced six individuals appointed to senior staff positions:
Bernhard “Bernie” Kluger will serve as senior adviser for management in the Office of the Secretary. Most recently, Kluger was a senior adviser in the Small Business Administration, which he joined in March 2021. He also served in the Obama Administration from 2012 to 2017 in the Office of Personnel Management.
Yeshimebet Abebe is now the director of organizational management and cultural transformation for the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center. Abebe returns to USDA after service during the Obama Administration. She served in several roles including as chief of staff to the Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, and was the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration.
Toby Cain has been tapped as the chief of staff for the Risk Management Agency. Most recently, Cain worked on the campaigns of Michael Franken in Iowa, Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, and Pete Buttigieg in Utah and Iowa. Cain also brings experience as a former education and outreach coordinator for the Iowa Organic Association and the education coordinator for the Seed Savers Exchange.
Anita Adkins will serve as chief human capital officer, a position she has been in on an interim basis since October 2021. Before this role, she served as the acting director for the National Finance Center and as the director for human resources in Rural Development.
George Sears is now the director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Sears previously served as the director of USDA’s Forest Service Office of Procurement and Property Services since 2011.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has added Mike Lavender as interim policy director and Sophia Kruszewski as deputy policy director. Lavender previously served as the senior manager of government affairs for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment program, an NSAC member. He has also served for three years on the Organizational Council of NSAC. Kruszewski returns to NSAC after four years directing the Food and Agriculture Clinic at Vermont Law School. When she previously worked for NSAC she was a senior policy specialist.
Amanda Spoo is leaving the U.S. Wheat Associates, effective July 31, after seven years with the organization. Spoo most recently served as the director of communications. Before joining USW, she worked for the Kansas Pork Association. Spoo has accepted a new position at an Oregon communications and lobbying firm.
Scott Yager is settling into his role as the vice president of environment at the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Yager previously worked at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as its chief environmental counsel.
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has selected J. Alex Thomasson as the president-elect for 2022-2023. Thomasson is the head of the Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and William B. and Sherry Berry Endowed Chairholder. He represents the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers on CAST’s plant agriculture and environmental issues work group. He is a registered professional engineer and previously held faculty positions at Texas A&M University and Mississippi State University. He also started his career as a research engineer with USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
Randy Dickhut is retiring from Farmers National Company where he has been senior vice president of real estate operations since 2016. Dickhut has been with FNC since 2002 and previously worked for Home Builders Association of Quincy, Two Rivers Ag Producers Alliance, and Omni Bank.
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