WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2017 - Joel Leftwich is stepping down as majority staff director for the Senate Agriculture Committee to pursue other interests. He’s being replaced by James Glueck, a senior policy adviser for the panel who has experience at USDA and in the private sector. Leftwich is a longtime aide to Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and a former top lobbyist for PepsiCo. Glueck, a native Texan, has been on the committee staff since March 2013.

Lauren Fine started a new job this week as press secretary for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. Fine’s been serving as deputy press secretary for Sen. Jodi Ernst, R-Iowa. Fine previously served on the presidential campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and worked as a booker and production assistant for the Fox News Channel.

The Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau presented its Distinguished Service Award to Brandon Willis, who ran USDA’s Risk management Agency under President Obama, at the group’s annual meeting last week in Bonita Springs, Florida. Tara Smith, Vice President for Federal Affairs, received the group’s prestigious Chairman’s award.

Former House Agriculture Committee member Reid Ribble, R-Wis., has returned to the National Roofing Contractors Association as the group’s CEO. Ribble, whose family has a roofing business in Wisconsin, ran the Contractors Association from 2005 to 2006. Ribble served in Congress from 2011-2017.

Erica Campbell is now handling agriculture issues for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the lawmaker’s Burlington office. She’s replacing Jenny Nelson.

Jarrod Agen, a former communications director and chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, is moving to the White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of communications to Vice President Mike Pence. Agen became Snyder’s chief of staff in January 2016, a day before the state declared an emergency in the Flint water crisis.

Brent Van Dyke was sworn in last week for a two-year term as the president of the National Association of Conservation Districts at the group’s annual meeting in Denver. Van Dyke is a retired teacher and FFA adviser who worked for the State Department’s USAID for more than 15 years as a contract adviser for agricultural projects in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. He and his wife Kim farm in New Mexico and Texas.

Gary Andres is leaving Capitol Hill, where he’s been staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the past six years. No word on where he’s heading other than to “pursue a new opportunity.” Andres previously served as deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President Bush George H.W. Bush and advised President George W. Bush's transition team.

Laura Haynes Gillam has moved to the minority staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where she’s the senior policy adviser for clean air and climate. For the past nine years she’s been working as a policy adviser to Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware.

Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter and C. Larry Pope, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, are among the Class of 2016 inductees into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

Other new Hall members are Chuck Hendryx, a vice president with H-E-B Grocery Company; Iowa State University professor Joe Sebranek; Sam Stein, founder and chairman of Chef's Pantry; Joe Cordray, professor and extension meat specialist at Iowa State; and Sam Kane, founder of Sam Kane Beef Processors.

The National Biodiesel Board named Doug Whitehead as its chief operating officer. Whitehead joins the executive team after 10 years in various roles with the organization, most recently as the director of operations and membership. Whitehead is replacing Donnell Rehagen, who took over the chief executive’s job last fall.

The directors of the Fertilizer Institute have elected Chuck Magro, president and CEO of Agrium, as their new board chairman. The board also elected Tony Will, president and CEO of CF Industries, as vice chairman. The officers will serve two-year terms.

Alan W. Meerow, a research geneticist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, has been awarded the 2017 David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration by the Hawaii-based National Tropical Botanical Garden. The non-profit is honoring Meerow, a geneticist at the ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station's National Germplasm Repository in Miami, “for an eclectic career that combines botany, horticulture and genetic research.” The award is named for David Fairchild, an “Indiana Jones”-type plant explorer who devoted much of his life to searching the world for plants suitable for introduction into the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts has been honored by the National Sorghum Producers with the organization’s 2017 “Friend of Sorghum” Congressional Award. NSP says the award recognizes the Kansas Republican’s work representing U.S. sorghum producers.

U.S. Wheat Associates board of directors has elected new officers to begin one-year terms in July. The board elected Doug Goyings of Paulding, Ohio, as secretary-treasurer; current Secretary-Treasurer Chris Kolstad of Ledger, Montana, as vice chair, and current Vice Chairman Mike Miller of Ritzville, Washington, as chairman.

Valerie Smiley has left the U.S. Grains Council’s Washington office to work closer to her family and her home in Maryland. Smiley joined USGC 23 years ago and has been handling membership administration for the past 17 years.

Glenn Froning, who served for many years as the American Egg Board’s food science and technology adviser, passed away Jan. 29 at the age of 86. Froning took up that position after retiring from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he was a professor emeritus in the Food Science and Technology Department.

Joy Labez, the assistant director for International Affairs and Trade with the Government Accountability Office, died Jan. 22 following a battle with cancer. She was 52. Labez joined GAO in 1991, earning meritorious service awards in 2007 and 2014 for her leadership on food assistance engagements. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Feb. 18 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.