Neil Caskey.jpegNeil Caskey, NCGA

The National Corn Growers Association has tapped Neil Caskey to be the next CEO of the organization. Caskey, who began his new role this week, previously served as the head of communications and industry relations efforts. Caskey joined NCGA in 2018 and before that was an executive vice president with the OBP Agency, an agricultural, food and tourism marketing firm.

Caskey's career also includes working in industry and public relations for the American Soybean Association. He also was an environmental affairs representative for Ameren Corp, and an aide to then-Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., from 1997-2001. He succeeds Jon Doggett, who left NCGA at the end of 2022 after 20 years with the organization.

Food Systems for the Future President and CEO Ertharin Cousin will co-chair USDA’s Equity Commission. She takes the place of Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh who is leaving the department. Cousin will co-chair the commission alongside United Farm Workers President Emeritus Arturo Rodriguez. Dewayne Goldmon, senior adviser for racial justice and equity at USDA, has also been selected to join the commission as an ex officio member.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative has made Christopher Wilson the assistant USTR for Japan, Korea, and APEC Affairs. He most recently was the assistant USTR for South and Central Asia. Now, Brendan Lynch will serve as the acting assistant USTR for South and Central Asia.

Denise Bode has left Michael Best to start up a new firm called Constitution Partners. She is joined by Pat Firth and Emily Green, who were also at Michael Best. Firth joins the firm as a partner and Green as an associate. The new firm will be taking on clients in the agriculture, food, energy, environment, tax and trade industries. Bode joined Michael Best in 2017 and previously ran the firm’s federal lobbying practice. Firth previously was a principal and Green a legislative assistant.

Janet Adkison, the anchor for RFD-TV and Rural Radio 147 Sirius XM, is moving from Nashville back to her home state of Missouri. Starting in April, she’ll be the new Director of Public Affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau.

The National Cattlemen Beef Association has brought on Rebecca Barnett as director of animal health and food safety policy. She will be working on issues related to traceability, Dietary Guidelines, animal welfare, and food safety. The California native previously worked at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture where she was an associate director of public policy. 

Charles Stephens has started a new role as senior executive director of policy at the National Rural Water Association. Stephens previously was the assistant administrator of water and environmental programs at USDA-Rural Development.

Ertharin Cousin.jpegErtharin Cousin, USDA Equity Commission co-chair

The U.S. Apple Association has promoted Mitchell Liwanag to manager of environmental affairs. Liwanag came to USApple in January 2022 as the manager of association management. Before that, he worked at the National Communication Association and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

The USJersey organization has added three people to its staff. Benny Rector has been brought on as the new southern Plains area representative, which covers Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. He studied dairy science at the University of Missouri and then started Rector Jersey Farm in Mountain Grove, Mo., which he has run for nearly 20 years. Joining the team part-time are Jolena Gioiello and Gracie Krahn. Both positions will focus on the digital media platforms of the organization. Gioiello is an August 2022 graduate of The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in communications. She has been employed as a marketing assistant with InnTown Homes and Apartments, working with the company’s social media marketing. Krahn is a junior at the University of Wisconsin, studying life sciences communications and political science. She previously served as the 2019 National Jersey Queen.

The Food Research and Action Center has brought on Mayra Alvarez as the new chair of the board of directors. Alvarez is the president of The Children’s Partnership. She succeeds Judith Whittlesey, executive vice president of Susan Davis International, who served seven years in the FRAC role.

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The Consortium for Common Food Names has named Jeff Schwager as the new chairman of the board. Schwager most recently served as CEO of Sartori from 2009-2022. He succeeds Errico Auricchio, who has led CCFN since its founding in 2012.

New leaders have been selected to serve on the Dairy Management Inc., board of directors, which leads national dairy checkoff strategies and programs. Reelected as the chair of DMI is Marilyn Hershey, a farmer from Cochranville, Pennsylvania. Becky Levzow of Wisconsin has been tapped as the new vice chair, along with Skip Hardie of New York as secretary and Orville Miller of Kansas as treasurer.

DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff, is co-funded by the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB) and the United Dairy Industry Association. The organizations also each elected new board officers. Selected as chair of NDB is Joanna Shipp of Virginia. Doug Carroll of Iowa was selected as vice chair. Jim Reid of Michigan is the new secretary, and Suzanne Vold of Minnesota is the new treasurer.

UDIA new officers include Neil Hoff of Texas as chair; Alex Peterson of Missouri as first vice chair; Tom Woods of Oklahoma and American Dairy Association representative, as second vice chair; Audrey Donahoe of New York and National Dairy Council representative as second vice chair; Charles Krause of Minnesota as secretary; and John Brubaker of Idaho as treasurer.

After nine years at the helm of the Kansas Corn Growers Association CEO Greg Krissek plans to retire in mid-May. He will be succeeded by Josh Roe, who has served as the association’s Vice President of Market Development and Public Policy since 2018. KCGA President Brent Rogers described Krissek as a “transformational leader” at Kansas Corn and that he expected the succession from Greg to Josh to be “seamless.” Roe holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University and Iowa State University. After working for eight years as an agricultural economist at K-State, Roe joined the Kansas Department of Agriculture in 2014. Beginning as a staff economist, he was named Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in 2015 and Deputy Secretary in 2017. 

Former Sen. James G. Abourezk, D-S.D., who launched a short congressional career with a boost from his state’s rural electric cooperatives during a high-profile referendum campaign in 1969, died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Friday, his 92nd birthday. He served in the Senate for one term (1973-1979) after two years in the U.S. House representing a district in western South Dakota. The son of immigrants from Lebanon, he was the first U.S. senator of Arab American descent.

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