WASHINGTON, July 12, 2017 - Darci Vetter, former chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, has been named diplomat in residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In that role, Vetter will work with leaders from the university’s College of Law, College of Business and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources to launch the Clayton K. Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance. A Nebraska alumnus, Yeutter made a $2.5 million leadership gift to help establish the Institute. Yeutter, who died in March at the age of 86, held three cabinet-level posts for two U.S. presidents. He was counselor for domestic policy and secretary of agriculture for President George H.W. Bush and USTR for President Ronald Reagan.

Kathleen Merrigan is busy these days setting up the Food Policy Leadership Institute at George Washington University. A former deputy secretary and chief operating officer at USDA, Merrigan has recruited a faculty “dream team” that includes Joe Glauber, a former chief economist at USDA; Ferd Hoefner, a founding staff member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; and Bob Perciasepe, a former deputy administrator at EPA. For a more complete list of faculty and their backgrounds, click here. The Institute’s first class convenes this September.

President Trump says he plans to nominate Susan Combs to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget.  Combs, who runs a ranch in the Big Bend area of Texas, served in the state Legislature and was also elected to two statewide offices: as Texas’s first woman Agriculture Commissioner, and then as the Comptroller of Public Accounts, Treasurer, and Chief Financial Officer. Her name also surfaced briefly as a possible U.S. Agriculture Secretary before Trump settled on Sonny Perdue.

Ashley Kongs has left the U.S. Grains Council to pursue a master’s degree as a Forte Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Business. Kongs had been USGC’s manager of ethanol export programs. Kongs first joined the Council in June 2011 as the international operations coordinator. She left the Council in 2012 to work for Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call and re-joined the Council in 2014. The Forte Fellows Program was created with the aim of increasing the number of women enrolled in MBA programs.

Vince Peterson is settling into his new role as president of U.S. Wheat Associates. He succeeds Alan Tracy, who retired after 20 years in the post. Tracy will serve as a senior advisor with USW for the foreseeable future. Peterson has been with USW for 32 years and served most recently as vice president of overseas operations. Filling Peterson’s VP position is Mark Fowler, who most recently was serving as president and CEO of Farmer Direct Foods Inc., a farmer-owned flour-milling company in New Cambria, Kansas. Over the past decade, Fowler has also been a technical milling consultant for USW, as well as the Northern Crops Institute, allowing him to become well acquainted with many USW staff and overseas customers… USW also announced three promotions in its headquarters in Arlington, Va. Erica Oakley is now director of programs, Amanda Spoo is promoted to assistant director of communications, and Elizabeth Westendorf is promoted to assistant director of policy.

Daniel J. Oh has resigned as president and chief executive of Renewable Energy Group. The Ames, Iowa-based company said Oh has also stepped down from REG’s board of directors, which appointed long-time director Randy Howard as interim president and CEO. REG did not give a reason for Oh’s departure, although it said in a statement that Oh has agreed to assist in transitional matters over the next several months.

Kai Hughes, the managing director/CEO of the Liverpool-based International Cotton Association, takes over as executive director of the International Cotton Advisory Committee in September. Headquartered in Washington, the Committee is the international commodity body representing cotton and cotton textiles. Hughes has been running ICA for the past nine years.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has named Curt Blades as senior vice president for AG services. He replaces Charlie O’Brien, who announced his retirement from AEM earlier this year. Blades joins AEM from Meredith Corp., where he’s been serving as Group Business Development Director and a member of the strategic leadership team for Meredith Agrimedia business unit.

Want to know who’s going to be overseeing the various departments at the EPA? Ryan Jackson, chief of staff to EPA chief Scott Pruitt, sent an email in late June listing more than 40 political hires. They include former aides from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, former congressional staffers and ex-lobbyists. Jackson said additional staff, including assistant administrator and regional administrator, will be appointed later. Click here to see Jackson’s email.

The search for a new CEO at the Kansas Grain and Feed Association is under way. Tom
who’s held the top job for 37 years, says he plans to retire as president and chief executive officer effective March 31, 2018. The plan is for the new CEO to take over sometime in November with Tunnell staying on until the end of March to help with the transition.

Syngenta says it’s merging its Research & Development and Production and Supply functions under the leadership of Jon Parr, and its Seeds business under Jeff Rowe. The Switzerland-based company said the moves support its goal of strengthening its leading position in Crop Protection while becoming an “ambitious number-three in Seeds.” Syngenta says that because of the realignment, two members of its executive committee – Trish Malarkey, head of R&D, and Mark Peacock, head of global operations – will leave the company at the send of September.

The American Angus Association named Clint Mefford, a native of Central Point, Ore., as the organization’s director of communications. Mefford began his new role July 5, after previously serving as an executive marketing associate at the Association headquarters in Saint Joseph, Mo.

The National Hemp Association’s board of directors has hired Erica McBride as NHA’s executive director. She joins NHA from the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council where she was secretary treasurer. McBride previously held the same position with the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

Good luck to the nine USDA employees sworn in last week as Foreign Service officers in the Foreign Agricultural Service. The new officers will begin their careers serving as agricultural attachés at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions across the globe. Here’s a list of the new officers, their home towns, and their duty assignments: Lisa Ahramjian (Wilmington, Del.), Dominican Republic; Daniel Archibald (Clifton Forge, Va.), Ghana; Christopher Bielecki (Clarence Center, N.Y.), Beijing; Alexander Blamberg (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Tokyo; Kyle Bonsu (Philadelphia), South Africa; Megan Davidow (Queens, N.Y.), Vietnam; Jennifer Lappin (Dracut, Mass.), EU headquarters, Brussels; Garrett McDonald (Austin, Texas), Indonesia; and Jasmine Osinski (Vienna, Va.), Senegal. More information about FAS and its work to advance U.S. agricultural interests around the globe is available at www.fas.usda.gov.

The National Corn Growers Association has hired Jeffery Mullen as its director of research. Mullen most recently worked for Deere & Company as principal scientist, manager of agronomic research. He previously worked as a scientist at a wide array of agribusinesses including Valent, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Stoller Enterprises.

The Soil and Water Conservation Society chose Clare Lindahl as the organization’s new chief executive officer. Since 2012, Lindahl has served as executive director for Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI), a nonprofit that supports the state’s 500 soil and water conservation district commissioners. Lindahl starts her new job in mid-August.

Feeding America named Kate Leone as senior vice president of government relations. Leone, who previously served as general counsel for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., will oversee the group’s public policy, government relations and advocacy teams and lead their legislative and regulatory strategy on Capitol Hill and with the executive branch. Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic anti-hunger group with a network of 200 food banks across the U.S.

Glenn Grimes, a noted livestock specialist and a member of the National Pork Producers Council Hall of Fame, died July 2 at the age of 94. An Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, Grimes attended the University of Missouri and became an agricultural Extension agent in 1951 and a state livestock marketing specialist in 1956, serving in that position at Mizzou until 1985. Grimes continued to work part-time as a consultant wifcth clients including NPPC and the National Pork Board until his “re-retirement” in 2009.