Alyssa Houtby has joined the North American Blueberry Council as the new director of government affairs. She most recently served as the senior director of federal affairs for California Citrus Mutual. She has been with CCM for the last 11 years and also served as the director of government affairs and director of public affairs. 

Terry Splane joins the California Avocado Commission as the new vice president of marketing. He succeeds Jan DeLyser, who retired last month. Splane comes to CAC from Impossible Foods where he most recently was the head of partner success and strategy. He brings more than 30 years of experience to the role, also working for Ventura Foods and McCormick & Co.

Alyssa Houtby.jpegAlyssa Houtby, NABC

Loree Dowse and Paul Ensley have joined Church Bros. Farms. Dowse will be the director of marketing and Ensley a retail data analyst. Dowse most recently was a director of marketing and communications for Concentric Power. Ensley previously was a project cost analyst with D&J Packing. 

Lee Cole is coming out of retirement to lead Calavo Growers as president and CEO again. He succeeds Brian Kocher, who has stepped down from the role. Cole previously served as Calavo’s president and CEO from 1999 until his retirement on Jan. 31, 2020. He served as a director of Calavo for 39 years, 28 as chairman of the board. According to the release, Cole “has agreed to lead the company for three years with the goal of returning the company to a position of growth and shareholder value creation.” 

Erick Lutt is now the director of federal government affairs for Bayer U.S., Crop Science based in Washington. Lutt spent the last 10 years working for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, most recently as the senior director of federal government relations, helping lead BIO’s agricultural and environmental section.

Josh Tonsager has moved to the Senate Agriculture Committee under Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., as senior professional staff handling the commodities and crop insurance portfolio. Tonsager comes to the committee from the House Ag Committee where he was a professional staff member under Rep. David Scott, D-Ga.

The ranking member of the House Ag Committee, David Scott, D-Ga., has added staffers to his team. Britton Burdick will serve as the new communications director. He most recently served as the communications director for Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J. Before that, he was the national press secretary for One Country Project, a rural policy and advocacy nonprofit founded by former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Michael Stein returns to the House Ag Committee as the new chief counsel for the Democratic staff. He previously served as counsel for the Senate Small Business Committee. Before that, he worked on the House Ag Committee in the 117th Congress. Stein earned his law degree and his master's degree in environment and resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a founding member of the Wisconsin Agriculture and Food Law Society.

Halee Fisher is joining the House Agriculture Committee under Chairman Glenn Thompson as a legislative assistant, effective March 27. She will handle nutrition and international food aid policy issues. Fisher most recently worked for Rep. Rudy Yakym III, R-Ind., as a legislative correspondent. 

Halee Fisher.jpegHalee Fisher, House Agriculture Committee- Republican

Lea Harvey has been named vice president of development at the American Farmland Trust. Over the past two decades, Harvey has led fundraising efforts and partnership development as the director of initiatives at Sweet Briar College. 

USDA has named two new members to the National Organic Standards Board. Franklin Quarcoo and Nathaniel Lewis have been appointed to the environmental protection and resource conservation seats. Quarcoo is an assistant research-extension professor of entomology at Tuskegee University. Lewis works as the south Sound conservation manager for the Washington Farmland Trust in Washington State.

Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

Joseph Scimeca has announced his plans to retire from the International Dairy Foods Association this summer. Scimeca currently serves as the senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for IDFA. Before joining IDFA in 2020, Scimeca worked for Cargill for 16 years where he most recently was the company’s vice president of global regulatory and scientific affairs. He has also worked for Kraft Foods, The Pillsbury Co. and General Mills. The organization has begun a national search for Scimeca’s replacement to lead the trade association’s regulatory and scientific affairs team. Once a successor has been named, Scimeca will retire. 

Bob Stafford, longtime manager of the Vidalia Onion Committee, retired as executive director on Jan. 1., after 29 years with the organization. He started with VOC in 1994 as a compliance officer to assist in development of a compliance plan. He was selected to manage the VOC in 2017.

Christine Todd Whitman has been asked to sit on the board of directors of World Food Program USA. Whitman currently serves as the president of The Whitman Strategy Group. Before that, she was the governor of New Jersey and also served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush

Farm Foundation has announced its 2023 Young Agri-Food Leaders cohort. The 2023 Young Agri-Food Leaders are: Kellie Adesina, Kraft Heinz; Amanda Bittner, Louis Dreyfus Company; Gina Cox, Indigo Ag;Trista Danos, Whole Foods Market; Kasey Garrett, Aqua Irrigation Technologies; Christian Horn, Cultivian Sandbox/Sandbox Sustainability Ventures; Ryan Locke, FMC; Micah Mensing, Farm Credit Mid-America;and Richard Preisser, Smithfield Foods.