WASHINGTON, November 14, 2012- The first and undeniably one of the most popular of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's agency heads announced today that he plans to retire from the agency, effective Dec. 3, 2012. Dave White, who served as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the last four years, is a unique public servant in that he worked for members of both parties before being asked to serve in the Obama Administration.

Chief White’s career with NRCS has spanned 35 years. He started at NRCS at an early age in Missouri, where he began his career as a passionate conservationist who did a great deal to advance farmer-friendly policies that expand conservation practices on the land.

From 2002 to 2008, he served as the NRCS State Conservationist in Montana. For much of 2007 and 2008, he was detailed to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s office in Washington, D.C., where he helped the Senate Committee on Agriculture craft the conservation title of the 2008 Farm Bill.

White’s earlier positions include work as an NRCS Conservation Aid; service as NRCS’ Director of Congressional Relations; and two details on the staff of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, supporting agriculture committee work on energy and the 2002 Farm Bill. He also served as Director of Communications for the White House Task Force for Livable Communities.

“Dave has moved with great speed to implement bold ideas and redefine private land conservation to address the challenges and opportunities of this century,” said USDA-NRCS Under Secretary Harris Sherman to NRCS staff today.

He described several accomplishments under Chief White’s leadership, including more than a dozen landscape conservation initiatives such as the sage-grouse, Working Lands for Wildlife, Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River Basin and Mississippi River Migratory Bird initiatives. The agency expanded its partnerships and put into place collaborative agreements “that allow it to stretch is financial and technical assistance dollars and create new incentives for producers to invest in conservation.” Also, Sherman credited Chief White for modernizing the agency through the Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative and the forthcoming Field Office of the Future. 

“These are just a few of his accomplishments that are making a real difference for producers and for the resource,” Sherman said. “And these accomplishments have served to significantly raise the agency's profile in Washington DC and across the country.”

Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said "Chief White has spent his career helping the nation fulfill its commitment to soil and water resource conservation working tirelessly to improve land management policies and practices.”

“Having served as an indispensable resource of information and organizational leadership, Dave will be missed by the agriculture community,” Thompson said. “I want to thank Chief White for his dedicated service of nearly four decades and wish him and his family the very best."

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Gene Schmidt today called Chief White “a tremendous advocate for natural resource conservation.”

“He will be missed by the entire conservation district community,” Schmidt continued. “He understands the issues, truly cares about the mission, and knows what it takes to get locally-led conservation done on the ground.”

“Since January, 2009, it has been my greatest honor to have been able to serve as your Chief,” White told his staff today. “I will admit to being a bit biased, but NRCS is, without question, the best Federal Agency there is.”

“From focusing our programs through initiatives to deliver natural resource results…to providing regulatory certainty for our producers…to the vast array of Agency improvements, NRCS is simply the gold standard for Federal agencies,” he added. “So, with a severe case of mixed feelings, I realize it’s time to turn the page.”

He announced that Jason Weller will serve as Acting Chief of NRCS. 

“When I became Chief, I actively recruited Jason to be the NRCS Chief of Staff because of his knowledge, commitment, and strategic thinking skills,” White told his staff today. “He has not disappointed. Jason has been involved in every major decision NRCS has made since 2009.” 

Weller served on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the House Budget Committee, as well as the House Appropriations Committee. 

“His knowledge of NRCS programs, budget, structure, and operations is unsurpassed,” White said. “He is truly dedicated to advancing the cause of voluntary, incentive-based private land conservation.”


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