California farmer A.G. Kawamura has been elected as a co-chair of the United Nations Environment Program’s Farmers Major Group. He will help advocate for farmer-centered policy and share examples of how growers improve their environment and economics. Kawamura served as the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 2003 to 2010. He also is a founding co-chair of Solutions from the Land. 

A.G. Kawamura.jpgA.G. Kawamura

President Joe Biden plans to nominate Anna Gomez, Geoffrey Starks, and Brendan Carr members of the Federal Communications Commission. Gomez is a telecommunications attorney with experience in domestic and international communications law and policy. She serves as a senior adviser for International Information and Communications Policy in the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. Starks and Carr currently serve as commissioners. Starks joined the commission in 2015 and previously served as assistant bureau chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. Carr joined the agency as a staffer in 2012 and previously served as the agency's general counsel. 

The Washington State Wine Commission has hired Kristina Kelley as its new executive director. Kelley brings an extensive career in the wine industry and most recently was a strategic marketing communications consultant across a luxury portfolio of wine. Before that, she spent more than 25 years with E. & J. Gallo Winery, most recently as the senior director of public relations and corporate communications. She retired from her full-time position in 2021 to relocate back home to Washington.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization has brought on John Torres as the director of federal government relations for agriculture and the environment. Torres most recently worked at the Maryland Farm Bureau as its executive director. 

Stephanie Murphy has been promoted to vice president of crop sciences and corporate government affairs at Bayer. She previously was the head of federal government affairs, crop science and international trade. 

Tad Hepner has joined the Renewable Fuels Association as the new vice president of strategy and innovation. Hepner previously worked for Clariant, a Swiss chemical organization, as the commercial development and technical sales manager for the Americas. 

Frank Macchiarola has been selected as the new chief policy officer for the American Clean Power Association, effective June 20. Macchiarola comes to ACP from the American Petroleum Institute where he was the senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs. 

Derek Kitchen has been tapped as the acting senior vice president and deputy director of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Export-Import Bank. Before this appointment, Kitchen served as a state senator in the Utah Legislature. 

Anna M. Gomez.jpgAnna Gomez

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., plans to retire from the Senate at the end of his term next year. Carper has been in the Senate since 2001 and has played a key role in environmental legislation. He has chaired the Senate's chief environmental policy panel since 2021 and previously was the panel's ranking member for four years. The four-term senator, who often calls himself a “recovering governor,” served as Delaware’s chief executive from 1993 to 2001. Before that, he represented Delaware as the state's lone vote in the House of Representatives for 10 years. He also was the state’s treasurer, a post he was elected to at age 29.

Chris Bardenhagen and Howard James have been chosen to sit on the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. board of directors by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack as producer representatives. The two will serve a four-year term. Bardenhagen is part owner and operator of a sixth-generation family farm in Michigan that produces apples and table grapes for local and regional sales. James owns and operates a 1,000-acre farm in Georgia that produces muscadines, peaches, plums, watermelon, butter beans, peas and other specialty crops.

Chad Willis has been selected to serve as the U.S. Grains Council’s representative on MAIZALL’s board of directors. MAIZALL has representatives from the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina. The board's goal is for growers in all three countries to work together to resolve problems related to non-tariff barriers in global markets like biotechnology, plant breeding and crop protection. Willis is a Minnesota farmer and past chairman for USGC.

Carlos Gonzalez, worldwide director of regulatory affairs for Hill’s Pet Nutrition, is the new chairman of the American Feed Industry Association. He succeeds outgoing chair Mike Gauss, president of Kent Nutrition Group. Leigh Ann Sayen, CEO of The Petersen Co., was also selected as the chair-elect of the organization for the 2024-25 AFIA fiscal year. 

Sustainable AgTech business RedSea, whose technology enables commercial farming in hot climates globally, has appointed John Keppler to its board of directors. Keppler is the executive chairman of Enviva, the world’s largest producer of sustainable wood pellets.

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Potatoes USA has announced new leadership. Mike Carter of Wisconsin was named chairman of the board. The 25-year potato industry veteran is the CEO and co-owner of Bushmans' Inc. He succeeds Jason Davenport of California as chair. Davenport has moved to past chair. Potatoes USA's executive committee members include: Les Alderete, Colorado, co-chair of the domestic marketing committee; Trever Belnap, Idaho, co-chair of the research committee; Jennifer Gogan, Maine, co-chair of the research committee; Leah Halverson, North Dakota, co-chair of the domestic marketing committee; Jeff Jennings, North Carolina, chair of the finance and policy committee; Mike Larsen, Idaho, co-chair of the international marketing committee; Shelley Olsen, Washington, co-chair of the international marketing committee; Ed Staunton, California, co-chair of the industry outreach committee; and Dennis Wright, Washington, co-chair of the industry outreach committee.

Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, a conservative Texas Democrat, died unexpectedly on May 17 at his home in Granbury, Texas. He was 84. Stenholm, who was also a leading advocate of a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, represented a large swath of west Texas for 26 years before he was defeated in 2004 as the result of a GOP redistricting plan. Stenholm served as the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee from 1997-2005 and also chaired the Blue Dog Coalition. After serving in Congress, he remained in Washington until 2018 as a lobbyist and senior policy adviser with the Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz law and lobbying firm that focuses on food, drug, and agriculture interests. After returning to Texas in 2018, Stenholm became an adjunct professor at Tarleton State University, teaching agricultural policy.

Soil health and regenerative farming pioneer David Brandt died May 21 from injuries sustained in a vehicular accident. A Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran, Brandt was an original founding partner of Understanding Ag and the nonprofit Soil Health Academy.

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