Kai Bockmann.jpgKai Bockmann, Blue Diamond Growers

Kai Bockmann has been selected as the new president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers, effective Jan. 17. Bockmann has served the last 10 years at the executive level of Saputo, a Canadian dairy company. He succeeds Mark Jansen, who will step down from the role after a 12-year tenure.

California’s Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai has left her post under "uncertain circumstances," according to the Sacramento Bee. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office has not yet responded to Agri-Pulse’s inquiry. Palugyai was appointed by Newsom in July 2021 to be the secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Before that appointment, she held positions at the U.S. Department of Labor, FEMA and Johns Hopkins University. Undersecretary Stewart Knox is serving as Acting Labor Secretary.

Arturo Barajas has been sworn in to serve on the California Expo board of directors. Barajas is the government affairs manager at FanDuel Inc. He previously served as the deputy secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

The Department of Agriculture has made new senior staff changes. Katie Zenk has been promoted to deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. She previously served as the chief of staff for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory mission area. Before joining USDA, she worked on the House Agriculture Committee for then-Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn, and served in several roles with Land O’Lakes. 

Sanah Baig now serves as USDA's deputy undersecretary for research, education, and economics. She previously served as the chief of staff for USDA’s REE mission area. 

Lanon Baccam is the new senior adviser in the Office of Communications. Baccam most recently was the director of scheduling and advance. Before USDA, he was the deputy state director for Iowa during the Biden-Harris general election campaign. Juan Bautista Dominguez has been elevated to deputy director of advance in the Office of Communications. He previously served as the advance lead. 

Tien Nguyen has been promoted to director of scheduling and advance in the Office of the Secretary. He previously served in the deputy role. Lauren Atzenbeck has been promoted to deputy director of scheduling in the Office of the Secretary. Atzenbeck has held positions as the scheduler and as the special adviser to the chief of staff. Before that, she worked for the Biden-Harris Coordinated Campaign in Colorado. 

Steffanie Bezruki is now the chief of staff for the undersecretary of rural development. She was previously the chief of staff for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, a role that Jimmy Dahman has been selected to fill. He was previously the special assistant to the undersecretary of rural development.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., has been selected by the House Republican Steering Committee to chair the House Agriculture Committee, starting in 2023, when Congress is due to write a new farm bill

Jason Grumet has been tapped as the new chief executive officer of the American Clean Power Association, effective Jan. 23. Grumet founded the Bipartisan Policy Center in 2007. In 2001, he founded and directed the National Commission on Energy Policy.

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Andy Rice is the new vice president of field operations and product supply at California Giant Berry Farms. In his career, Rice has overseen berry production in the Central and Northern California areas.

Jacqueline Muhammad has been added to the policy team of Torrey Advisory Group as director of government affairs. Muhammad previously worked at the Illinois Corn Growers Association as the biofuels and public policy program manager. 

Jacqueline Muhammad.jpgJacqueline Muhammad, Torrey Advisory Group

The North American Renderers Association has named Charles Starkey vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. Starkey will also be director of research for the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation. Most recently, Starkey was an assistant professor at Auburn University’s Poultry Science Department.

Erin Ball has been promoted to lead the Grain Foods Foundation as the new executive director. Ball had been serving as the acting executive director since January and before that was the director of public relations and science.

Steve Johnson has returned to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as associate director of policy communications. He most recently worked for the Office of Spokane County Board of Commissioners in Washington state.

Hannah Quigley is the new policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She previously worked as a food access specialist at the Richmond City Health District. 

Jordan Evich has joined Monument Advocacy to lead the appropriations practice. He previously worked on Capitol Hill as the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

Bion Environmental Technologies has brought on Lily Edwards-Callaway to its advisory group. She has also been working with Bion as a consultant overseeing the development and implementation of the animal health and welfare program for the company’s sustainable beef projects. Edwards-Callaway is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University focusing on livestock behavior and welfare.

Jeff Peterson of Minnesota is the new president of the American Agricultural Law Association. Jake Parker of North Carolina has been voted in as the new president-elect and Marisa Bocci of Washington and Whitney Ivey of North Carolina will join the board as directors. Tyler Buswell will become the immediate past president. 

Pete Donlon has been selected as a new board member of the Equitable Foods Initiative. He fills the seat vacated by Vic Smith of JV Smith Co. Donlon is the vice president of Misionero. Before that, Donlon spent 26 years at Earthbound Farm.

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