Cindy McCain has been named the next executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, placing her atop the world’s largest humanitarian organization as millions of people are pushed into hunger from climate-related disasters and the ongoing war in Ukraine. McCain has been serving as the U.S. ambassador to three U.N. food and agriculture agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and WFP. The wife of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been involved in humanitarian work for most of her career, but this role marks one of her first in food policy. She succeeds David Beasley, who will have served six years at the helm when his term ends on April 4.
L’Tonya Davis has been appointed to serve as the first permanent chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Department of Agriculture. She will oversee and help implement USDA’s first-ever diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) strategic plan. Davis comes to USDA from the Food and Drug Administration, where she most recently served as the director of the Office of Communications and Project Management in the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). Before that, she led FDA’s DEIA strategy in the ORA. Davis will replace Leslie Weldon, who had been the acting chief diversity and inclusion officer since March 2022.
The Department of Agriculture has appointed five to senior staff positions.
Malcom Shorter has been selected to serve as acting assistant secretary for administration. Shorter was reappointed as the deputy assistant secretary for administration in June 2021, before that he was serving as the acting assistant secretary for administration from January 2017 to August 2017. He has also previously served as the deputy assistant secretary for administration from June 2013 to January 2017.
Victoria Maloch is joining the Department of Agriculture as a special adviser in the Office of Communications. Maloch comes to USDA from the House Committee on Agriculture, where she most recently served as the communications director on the panel's Democratic staff. Before that, she worked in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Tracy Fox has been appointed legislative adviser in the Office of Congressional Relations. For the last six months, Fox has served in the position on detail. She brings more than 30 years of experience in nutrition policy to the role. Before joining USDA, Fox started her own company - Food, Nutrition, and Policy Consultants - and served as president of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Nathaniel West is joining the USDA staff to be senior oversight counsel in the Office of General Counsel. West previously worked on Capitol Hill as counsel to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Prescott Martin III also joins USDA from the House of Representatives as the new senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel. He previously worked on the House Ag Committee, which he joined in 2017. He was ultimately elevated to chief counsel under former Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Justina Graff has returned to Capitol Hill to work on the House Agriculture Committee under Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., as a legislative assistant. She most recently worked for the Russell Group as a legislative manager. Before that, she worked for the House Ag Committee as the deputy clerk.
Kate Fink has joined the Democratic staff of the House Agriculture Committee as policy director. She previously worked for the House Budget Committee and has held positions at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services. She also spent nearly 13 years at USDA, working on nutrition assistance programs and agricultural research.
Tim Bettington has joined Elanco Animal Health as the company’s executive vice president of corporate strategy and market development. Bringing over 25 years of experience to the role, Bettington most recently was the executive vice president and president for U.S. operations and global customer experience at Zoetis. Before that, he worked for Boehringer Ingelheim's animal health business as the North American region head of commercial operations.
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA has promoted Scott King to executive director of the company’s U.S. Cattle Business. He previously was the director of marketing for the U.S. cattle business since 2015. He has also held various marketing and technical leadership roles at Bayer Animal Health and Land O'Lakes Purina Mills.
Don Lamb has been tapped as the new director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, effective March 13. Co-owner and operator of Lamb Farms Inc. in Lebanon, Lamb also owns and helps operate AgRecycle, a composting and recycling business, and Lamb Farms Agronomy, a soil management and crop production service to local farmers. Lamb currently sits on the Boone County Council as vice president and is policy chair of his local Farm Bureau board. However, he will be stepping down from those positions to take on his new responsibilities.
Chris Boomsma has been selected as the new executive vice president and CEO of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Boomsma will succeed Kent Schescke, who will retire at the end of August after eight years with the organization. Schescke will continue in his current role for the next several months and work with Boomsma to help facilitate a smooth transition. Boomsma will assume the new role Aug. 1. Boomsma currently serves as the director of education for the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, ACSESS. He is also the director of science and strategy for Decode 6 educational platform. Before joining ACSESS, he was a research director for Purdue University and a strategist and scientist at Dow AgroSciences, now Corteva.
Caleb Floss is now with the U.S. Grains Council as manager of global programs for Asia. He previously worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics as an economist.
Dirk Hays has been tapped to lead the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco as the new director. Hays is a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Wendy Vlieks has joined the United Soybean Board as the vice president of communications. She brings 25 years of experience to the role, previously working for Walmart, Nestlé Purina, SanDisk, and FleishmanHillard.
The International Fresh Produce Association has hired Deborah Zoellick as the new floral program director. She will replace Becky Roberts, who will retire at the end of the month. Zoellick previously worked for Walmart as a sourcing manager. She also brings over two decades of floral experience to the job.
Jeff Schwager has been named the new chairman of the Consortium of Common Food Names. He comes to the organization from the specialty cheese company Sartori, where he was the CEO. He succeeds Errico Auricchio who had led CCFN since its founding in 2012.
RJ Andrus of Idaho Falls has been selected as the new president of the National Potato Council. A third-generation farmer and an owner of TBR Farms, Andrus served on NPC’s executive committee since 2019. He has previously been the vice president of grower outreach and industry research and most recently served as the vice president of legislative affairs. He succeeds Jared Balcom of Washington, who will serve as the immediate past president. Bob Mattive, Colorado, now serves as the first vice president and vice president of environmental affairs, Dean Gibson, Idaho, is the new vice president of legislative affairs, TJ Hall of North Dakota has been selected as the new vice president of grower outreach and industry research, Ben Sklarczyk, Michigan, is the new vice president of finance and Ted Tschirky of Washington is the vice president of trade affairs.
Neal Gutterson has been asked to sit on the board of directors for Trillium Ag, a sustainable bio-agriculture company. Gutterson currently is a partner and chief technology officer at Radicle Growth. He retired from Corteva Agriscience in 2020 where he was the chief technology officer.
Mark Fowler, vice president of global and technical services at U.S. Wheat Associates, died Feb. 20. He was 52. His career began as a flour miller, first for Cargill, Inc., and then Seaboard Corp. Some of the projects he worked on took him to several developing countries, including Ecuador, Guyana, and Haiti. He also worked as a technical director of the Africa Division within Seaboard’s Overseas Group in Durban, South Africa. Later in his career, he spent 12 years at Kansas State University as a milling specialist and associate director at the International Grains Program Institute. Before joining USW, Fowler was president and CEO of Farmer Direct Foods, a farmer-owned, flour milling company in Kansas.
Thurman Gaskill, 88, one of the most influential farm leaders in Iowa as well as national politics, died March 6. The Corwith, Iowa farmer and Iowa State graduate served in the Iowa Senate from 1997-2007, and worked as a commissioner for the Iowa Dept. of Economic Development and Dept. of Natural Resources. An early proponent of gasohol (now known as ethanol), he helped launch the state’s corn checkoff and later served as president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, president of the National Corn Growers Association, and chaired the U.S. Feed Grains Council, among other positions. He was co-chair of a group of farmers supporting Vice President George H.W. Bush’s presidential bid and later helped both his sons George W. and Jeb Bush in their campaigns.
Bruce Arnold, an advocate for agricultural clean energy and climate change solutions, died March 1. He was 89. Arnold spent 30 years of his career working for Scott Paper. He served on the 25x’25 Alliance national steering committee through Solutions for the Land and participated in The Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection. Services will take place Saturday, March 11, with a one-hour visitation beginning at 11:00 a.m. followed by a funeral service at noon at The Donohue Funeral Home, 1627 West Chester Pike, West Chester, Pennsylvania.
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