Nick Ortiz.jpgNick Ortiz, CalChamber

The California Chamber of Commerce and the Western Association of Conference Executives hired Nick Ortiz as CalChamber vice president of local chamber relations and W.A.C.E. president and CEO, effective Feb. 27. Ortiz is the current president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber.

The World Trade Organization has confirmed the appointments of Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland as the new chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules and Alparslan Acarsoy of Turkey as the new chair of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., and Ranking Member David Scott, D-Ga., have announced the chairs and ranking members that will lead the House Ag Subcommittees. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., will chair and Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio., will be the ranking member of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit. Scott was also named vice chair of the full committee. Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., will chair and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., will be ranking member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology. and Rep. Brad Finstad, a Minnesota Republican who is serving his first full term in Congress, will lead the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture, and Horticulture. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., will be the ranking member. Chairing the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry will be Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., and the ranking member will be Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., will lead the Subcommittee on Commodity Markets, Digital Assets, and Rural Development. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Colo., will be the ranking member. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., will chair and Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., will be ranking member of the Forestry Subcommittee, which will oversee the Forest Service. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has named five people to senior staff positions at USDA. Regina Black has been promoted to senior adviser for trade and national security in the Office of the Secretary. She previously was the chief of staff for the Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs mission area. Silvia Fabela is the new senior adviser in the Office of the Secretary. She has spent time with Local Progress, the Center for Popular Democracy, AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Jason Lumina will be chief of staff for the Rural Utilities Service. He previously served as an aide to Rep. Jim Cooper, D- Tenn., and also was on the staff of the House Budget Committee. Malikha Daniels, former staff director of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research on the House Agriculture Committee, will be a legislative adviser for the Office of Congressional Relations. Claire Sierawski has been chosen as senior energy counselor in the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development. Her most recent appointment was in the White House as special assistant to the president for climate change finance.

Cathy Cochran
is returning to the Department of Agriculture to be the director of communications, effective Feb. 21. She previously served as the press secretary at USDA during the Obama administration and also worked in the public affairs office of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. After leaving USDA, Cochran spent five years at the Glover Park Group, now FGS Global, as part of their food and agriculture practice and most recently worked at Teneo as a senior vice president. She will replace Mike Amato, who is leaving the Department this week. He has not yet announced his next move.

Simon Liu has settled into his role as administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. He has been acting administrator since June 2022 and officially became the administrator in January. Liu previously was the associate administrator for the agency's research management and operations area for more than seven years. He first joined ARS in 2010 as director of the National Agricultural Library. 

Christy Clark has officially been confirmed by the Montana Senate to serve as the new director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. First appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte in January 2022, Clark worked at the department since 2015 in a variety of roles including deputy director, agricultural sciences administrator, and agricultural development and marketing bureau chief. A fifth-generation rancher, Clark also previously served in the Montana House of Representatives where she sat on the House Agriculture, Business and Labor, Education, Rules, Transportation, and Legislative Administration committees. 

Daren Williams now works at Valley First Credit Union. He previously was the senior director of global communications at the Almond Board of California. Before that, he was the senior executive director of communications at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

The North American Renderers Association promoted Anna Wilkinson to vice president of communications. She will also serve as vice president of communications for the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation. She most recently was the director of communications for NARA and FPRF. 

The National Milk Producers Federation selected Nicole Ayache to be the first chief sustainability officer and Emily Yeiser Stepp to be the first executive director of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program. Ayache previously was the vice president of environmental stewardship and sustainability and Yeiser Stepp was the vice president of the FARM Program. NMPF also promoted Louise Kamali to vice president, meetings and office services and Sage Saffran to manager of sustainability initiatives.

Biome Makers has added Jay Vroom as an adviser. The former CEO of CropLife America, Vroom started his own consulting business and helps his clients with communications, marketing, and regulatory business interests.

Allie Lock is headed to the Senate Ag Committee under Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow as a policy analyst for research, specialty crops, organics, livestock, and animal health and welfare. She previously worked at Cornerstone Government Affairs where she was a senior associate. 

Allie Lock.jpegAllie Lock, Senate Ag Committee

Judd Gardner has moved to the House Appropriations Committee where he serves as professional staff for the Agriculture Subcommittee. He previously worked for Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., where he was the senator’s legislative director.

Estefanía Perez joined the U.S. Grains Council in its Mexico City office as the new assistant director. She previously worked for Cargill Colombia and before that was with Vanguard Logistics Services. She brings over 10 years of experience in logistics and supply chain issues.

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South Dakota native Todd Wilkinson is the new president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Wilkinson is a cow-calf producer and cattle feeder. He also practiced law for almost four decades, specializing in business transactions, estate planning and probate, real estate matters and agricultural law. Other officers include Mark Eisele of Wyoming as president-elect, Buck Wehrbein of Nebraska as vice president, and Brad Hastings of Texas as treasurer. Gene Copenhaver of Virginia was elected chair of NCBA’s Policy Division and Tim Schwab of Indiana was elected as policy vice chair. 

Jimmy Taylor, Andy Bishop and Ryan Moorhouse were elected as the new leaders of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. Taylor was tapped as the new chair after serving in 2022 as the vice chair. Bishop will transition to vice chair and Moorhouse, the newest member of the officer team, will take over Bishop’s former responsibilities as secretary-treasurer.

The U.S. Wheat Associates has elected Michael Peters of Oklahoma as the new chairman of the board of directors. He succeeds Rhonda Larson of Minnesota, who will now serve as the past chairwoman. Clark Hamilton of Idaho has been tapped as the new vice chairman and Jim Pellman of North Dakota will serve as the secretary-treasurer. 

Allan Zaremberg, former president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, passed away on Feb. 4, after battling a series of health complications. Zaremberg served in the role of president and CEO of CalChamber for 23 years beginning in 1998 after six years as executive vice president and head of CalChamber’s legislative advocacy program. He retired in 2021. Before joining CalChamber, he served as chief legislative adviser to and advocate for former Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson.

Jim Matiasevich, co-founder and president of Veg-Land Sales Inc., died Jan. 28 due to complication from pneumonia. He was 76. Matiasevich began his career working for JJ Crosetti. He then moved to Southern California to start a consolidation warehouse business called Veg-Land Inc. Matiasevich and his brother later expanded the business by starting a sales component focused on strawberries. 

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