Gina Dockstader has been appointed to serve on the California Farm Water Coalition. Dockstader is the director of the Imperial Irrigation District. Dockstader will fill the remaining year of former Director Norma Galindo’s term, which ends in February 2024.

Mike Stephan has been elevated to vice president of sales and business development at Monterey Mushrooms. He most recently was the company's senior director of business development and has also served two three-year terms on the Mushroom Council.

Brian Hunt has been tapped as the new senior vice president of ag operations for Church Brothers. He was previously in ag operations for the Yuma, Ariz., and Imperial, Calif., area. Francisco Munoz has been promoted to director of ag operations, focusing on the romaine, baby romaine and green leaf crops. Chuck Clunn has been elevated to director of ag operations focusing on the iceberg, broccoli and cauliflower crops. New to the Church Bros., team is Mike Scanlan who is the new director of ag operations with a focus on maintenance, trucking and managing the Tuscan and chimichanga crops. He brings 20 years of experience to the role, previously working for Tanimura and Antle and Earthbound.

Gabriel Avalos.jpegGabriel Avalos, Awe Sum Organics

Gabriel Avalos has been tapped to lead Awe Sum Organics as the new general manager. He most recently was the vice president of agriculture operations and sourcing for Bonduelle Fresh Americas, where worked for eight years.

Patrick McCullough has been appointed as the new CEO of ProducePay. He succeeds founder Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck, who has stepped down as CEO and is now the executive director of ProducePay’s board. Bringing 25 years of corporate experience to the role, McCullough has served in leadership roles for Ford Motor Company, Berkshire Hathaway and Just Energy. He previously served as a board member and was an adviser to ProducePay for two years.

Taylor Fenn is now the director of marketing and communications for Peak of the Market. Before joining Peak of the Market, Fenn worked in the communications department at Louis Riel School Division.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has announced she will not seek reelection in 2024. She will serve the remaining two years of her term, adding one more farm bill to her portfolio. She has served as the Ag Committee’s senior Democrat since 2011.

Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., has been selected to serve as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws and oversees trade policy. Smith was selected by the GOP steering committee for the post, beating out Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Vern Buchanan of Florida.

Jamie Miller has stepped down as Cargill's chief financial officer to accept an opportunity outside the company. Joanne Knight has been tapped to replace Miller as Cargill’s acting CFO. Knight is currently the vice president of finance for Cargill’s agriculture supply chain enterprise. Before Cargill, Knight spent 10 years in finance, marketing, and business leadership roles at General Mills.

Bev Paul has left Gordley Associates to start her own company, Davenport Policy. In her career, Paul has worked the last 20 years with Gordley Associates; before that, she worked in the offices of former Senators Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. To learn more about Paul, you can watch her Meet the Farm Hand interview.

The National Grain and Feed Association has brought on Stephanie See as the vice president of legislative and public affairs. See brings over 18 years of lobbying experience to NGFA, previously working for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers as the senior director of state affairs.

Alex Noffsinger has been elevated to a professional staff member on the Democratic staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He previously was a policy analyst on the committee working on issues related to commodity programs, crop insurance, agricultural credit, livestock, animal health and welfare, trade, and labor.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., has announced staff appointments for the caucus. Noah Yantis will serve as the executive director after previously serving as a legislative director for the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn. Amanda Fitzmorris is the new communications director. She comes from Newhouse's personal office, where she was a communications director. Fitzmorris also worked in the Office of Research and Development at the EPA under Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Katie Devlin has been brought on as a senior policy adviser covering agriculture, ESA, federal lands, forestry, rural broadband, tribes, and water. She previously worked for Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif. Nicole Harrison has also been hired as a policy adviser covering the portfolio for energy, hydropower, mining, renewables, research and development, and permitting. She previously was a legislative assistant for Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., where she handled agriculture, natural resources and Social Security issues.

Will Layden has been hired as the new vice president of government affairs for the American Wood Council. He previously worked on the House Committee on Natural Resources, where he was the deputy staff director.

Sam Harris.jpegSam Harris, United Natural Foods

Sam Harris has moved to United Natural Foods, where he is the government and public affairs manager. He previously worked in Rep. Jimmy Panetta’s, D-Calif., office as the agriculture legislative assistant.

Candace Bergesch now works at Bill and Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations as a communications officer. She previously worked at the International Poultry Welfare Alliance as director of communications. Before that, she worked for the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs.

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Hunter Lovell has moved to the office of Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., as the new communications director. He previously was the state press secretary for Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

Steve Patton has retired from the California Department of Food and Agriculture after serving 45 years. Beginning his career in 1977, he most recently was the inspection and compliance branch chief.

Chad Parker, deputy administrator of community programs at USDA Rural Development, has retired. Parker has been with USDA since 1991, when he began work as an economic development specialist for the Rural Electrification Administration. He started at RD in 1995.

Jennifer Convery has joined the Wilbur-Ellis board of directors. Before retiring, Convery was the group president of North America for Griffith Foods. She also sits on the board of Hamra Enterprises and Dot Foods.

The Pet Food Institute has selected new officers to serve on its 2023 board. Leading the board as chair is Nina Leigh Krueger, who serves as the Nestlé Purina PetCare North America President and CEO. Scott Salmon, president of Simmons Pet Food Inc., has been tapped as vice chair; Nicki Baty, president of Hill’s Pet Nutrition U.S., as secretary; Rod Troni, global chief marketing officer of Champion Petfoods, is treasurer; and Scott Morris, president and CEO of Freshpet, is the new personnel officer.

Soiltech Wireless, a company in remote crop monitoring and traceability, has appointed Shane Thomas to its board of directors. Thomas began his career as an agronomist and currently serves as the vice president of strategy at AgVend.

Founder of J. Marchini Farms, Joe Marchini, died on Dec. 28 at the age of 84. Marchini helped established the California-based grower-shipper, specializing in radicchio and Italian specialties.

California grape leader, Mike Bozick, died on Dec. 22. He was 91. A Navy veteran, Bozick went to work for his wife’s family in 1966 at Richard Bagdasarian Inc., where he learned the table grape business. A celebration of life will be held at noon on Jan. 13 at the Renaissance Esmerelda Resort in Indian Wells, Calif.

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