Obama Administration Begins Naming State Executive Directors for the Farm Service Agency
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2009 - The Obama Administration today began naming individuals who will serve as State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency at the USDA.
"These individuals have a solid understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our rural communities and will help build on the Obama Administration's efforts to rebuild and revitalize rural America," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Daniel Consenstein: Daniel Consenstein most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer at Renewable Resources Coalition in Anchorage where he increased awareness among Alaskans about the importance of protecting fish and wildlife habitat. He was the Executive Director at Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit that emphasized building relationships with Alaskan rural communities while working on public land issues for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. During his time at the U.S. Department of the Interior as Deputy Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, he worked with issues affecting Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Indian Tribes. Consenstein has served as an environmental consultant and is an expert on natural resource policy. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University and completed coursework in economics at the University of Alaska, Juneau.
William Donald Clifton II: Clifton is the President of Farmers First Services Inc. (FFS), an agricultural consulting business, and his family farm, Clifton Farms Inc. At FFS, Clifton works on crop insurance policies and develops outreach strategies. His previous work with USDA includes a term as State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in Delaware (1993-2001). During this time, Clifton improved farm program delivery and established a state leadership program. He also served as USDA's Communication Director for the National Food and Agriculture Council. Clifton has served on state economic councils and is an active member of the Delaware Farm Bureau. Clifton has also served as National Board of Directors of the National Corn Growers Association. His family has farmed in Delaware for over 80 years.
Diane Ley: Ley is currently the Deputy Director at the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development, where she oversees programs related to agriculture, tourism, economic development and energy. She implemented state conservation programs while serving as Deputy to the Chairperson at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Ley has experience with the Hawaii Farm Bureau and helped coordinate education programs for the Agricultural Leadership Foundation Program. She has been involved with the Hawaii agricultural community her entire life, including many years spent working directly on farming operations. Ley has been an active member of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture since 2006. She attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and has completed various leadership programs.
Scherrie Giamanco: Giamanco is currently the Price Support Program Chief for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Illinois and has served in this role since 1997. She oversees the delivery of the Commodity Loan Program and provides program guidance to 93 county offices throughout the state. She has worked with the USDA in Illinois since 1994 and is the recipient of several awards for outstanding performance. Prior to joining the USDA, Giamanco worked for U.S. Senator Paul Simon where she coordinated with federal departments on flood relief efforts and directed special projects. She is an active participant in many community groups and agricultural associations. Giamanco earned a master's degree in organizational communication and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Julia Wickard: Wickard is the Executive Vice President for the Indiana Beef Cattle Association and Indiana Beef Council, a post she has held since 2005. In this role she directs agricultural and beef initiatives throughout the state. Wickard has worked for a variety of Indiana-based agricultural and environmental groups since 1995 and has extensive knowledge of farming issues. She is actively involved in many community groups and agricultural organizations. In 1998 Wickard completed the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program and is currently a managing partner for her family farm. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications and political science from Purdue University.
Richard Burke: Burke is the Director of Business Programs for USDA Rural Development for the New England region that includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. For over 30 years Burke has worked on agricultural programs. He started working with the Farmers Home Administration in 1976 and held a variety of positions, including County Supervisor and Agricultural Loan Specialist. Burke has experience administering farm loan programs and is very familiar with rural economic issues in the New England region. He holds a bachelor's degree in natural resources and forestry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Christine White: White is currently working as the Racing Commissioner for the Office of Racing Commissioner in Lansing, Michigan, and is responsible for regulating the horse racing industry in the state. She has worked with the agriculture community in Michigan since 1978, including her role as State Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency from 1995-2000, and as a District and County Executive Director in East Central Michigan for 17 years. During her time as State Executive Director, she worked with the Michigan Department of Agriculture to implement the state's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. White leads the board of directors for the Michigan Farmers Union Foundation, as well as the Association of Racing Commissioners International. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from St. Mary's College of Notre Dame.
Linda K. Hennen: Hennen has more than 30 years of experience working with the Farm Service Agency, including 15 years of management experience. She served as District Director in Minnesota from 2000-2007, where she had oversight for farm program operations and management decisions for 10 southeastern counties. Prior to that position, Hennen worked in the Minnesota FSA office in a variety of roles where she gained expertise on the state's agricultural issues. She has many years of direct experience with regional producers and grew up farming in Minnesota. Hennen continues to be a part-owner of a family farm in Stevens County.
Michael Sullivan: Sullivan has been a full time farmer since 1970. He operates a 2,000-acre row crop, poultry and cattle business with his brother. From 1990-1996, he worked in a variety of senior management roles at the National Furniture Market in Tupelo, Mississippi, where was responsible for the daily management and market development of the nations second largest furniture showplace. He rejoined the group in 2000 as Executive Director and managed the growth of the company's market share into multiple states. Sullivan has agricultural real estate experience and is currently a member of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Mississippi Cattlemen's Association, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He has dedicated many years of service to civic and charitable activities and was honored in 2005 for his efforts in raising over $2 million for the City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital in Los Angeles. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State University.
Bruce Nelson: Nelson is currently the Chief of Staff to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and holds an executive role at Triangle N Farms, Inc. He managed Farm Service Agency programs during his tenure as the Montana State Executive Director from 1993-2000, where he was awarded the Administrator's Distinguished Service Award. For several years Nelson served as a Construction Project Manager with the Zoot Construction Company. Nelson received the USDA Secretary Honor Award in 1995 and also received the National award from the Inter Tribal Agriculture Council in 2000. He spent many summers working on a family farm and is very familiar with agricultural issues in Montana. Nelson has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Montana.
Dan Steinkruger: Dan brings 32 years of program management and supervisory experience in federal farm programs to his new leadership role as the State Executive Director for the Nebraska Farm Service Agency. He began with the USDA's Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), the predecessor to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) as a Field Reporter in 1977. He worked as a Program Assistant until becoming Harlan County Executive Director in Cass County, Nebraska in 1979. Dan became a Program Specialist in Conservation Programs in 1993, and the Chief of the Production Compliance Programs Section in 1996. Dan served as Acting State FSA Director in 1997, and again under the Obama Administration. Dan has worked on his family farm in the Franklin area, and was elected to the Weeping Water City Council, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District Board and as an officer for the Nebraska Association of Resource Districts.
Jim Barber: Barber is an Agricultural Promotion Specialist and Special Assistant to the Commissioner for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Through this role, he has become familiar with the state's agricultural challenges and also worked on conservation issues. Barber is very active on agricultural organizations and co-founded NY Farms!, an organization that developed the Farm-to-School program which was later adopted by the State. He has been the 5th generation farm owner and operator of Embar Farms for 19 years. Barber holds a bachelor's degree in general agriculture from Cornell University.
Francie Tolle: Tolle is currently the Legislative Policy Analyst for American Farmers and Ranchers, as well as co-owner of Tolle Farms in Deer Creek, Oklahoma. She previously served as the Director of Development at the Oklahoma State University Foundation, Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Tolle worked with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry as the State Director of Agritourism, and also held the position of Executive Director with the Oklahoma Wheat Grower's Association. She is a graduate of the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program and has participated in American Farm Bureau competitions. Tolle holds an MBA from Cameron University and a Bachelor of Science from Oklahoma State University.
Bill Wehry: Wehry is the Deputy Secretary for Agriculture and Consumer Protection for the State of Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture. He oversees 470 employees and a $120 million operating budget. Previously, Wehry ran Meadow Creek Farms from 1977-2003, where he managed 500 acres of cropland and 250 sow. He is an experienced agricultural producer and agribusiness manager who has worked to create a healthy environment for farms, protect consumer health and preserve the environment. Throughout his career, Wehry has earned numerous conservation awards.
Juan Garcia: Garcia currently has served as the Agricultural Program Manager/Assistant State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency and acting SED since January. He has 32 years of experience in the delivery of federal farm commodity and farm credit programs, and began his career with Texas FSA at the county level. During his time at the USDA Soil Conservation Service, Garcia provided technical guidance to farmers, ranchers and organizations in the planning and implementation of conservation programs. He served as an FSA County Executive Director in Hidalgo, Nolan and Cameron County, Texas, and also as a District Director for both the southern and eastern districts of the state. Garcia was raised on a cotton, grain sorghum and cattle operation in Willacy County. He holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from Texas A&I University.
Michael Wooden: Through various roles, Wooden has almost 27 years of USDA experience. He is currently a District Director for the Farm Service Agency in Virginia where he handles debt management issues, and serves as both the Civil Rights Coordinator and the Communications Coordinator. Previously, he served as a USDA Agricultural Liaison with Virginia State University. He was raised on a peanut and small grain farm in Surry County, Virginia, that was owned and operated by his father and brother. Wooden holds a bachelor's degree in agriculture education from Virginia State College.
Judith Olson: Olson is the Eastern Washington Director for U.S. Senator Patty Murray and has held this position since 1997. She provides guidance to the senator on policies affecting eastern Washington in the areas of agriculture, natural resources, environment, economic development, labor and transportation. Since 1976, Olson has worked on her family farm. She is a fourth-generation farmer and has over 25 years of experience working with volunteer producer organizations and on community service activities. Olson was the first woman to be elected president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. She attended Washington State University and the University of Ohio.
Brad Pfaff: Since 1997, Pfaff has been a Policy Advisor to U.S. Representative Ron Kind. Prior to this he worked on Senator Herbert Kohl's state staff performing constituent outreach. He now provides guidance on agricultural and natural resource issues, convenes listening sessions with agricultural producers and commodity groups, and has contributed to farm bill and dairy legislation. Prior to his work with Congressman Kind, Pfaff was a legislative staff member for Wisconsin State Representative Virgil Roberts. Pfaff is serving his second term on the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors where he represents 3,600 residents, and in 2004 was a candidate for the 32nd district of the Wisconsin State Senate. Pfaff was an instructor at Marymount University in government studies. He holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
USDA's Farm Services Agency works to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Some of the agency's efforts include providing direct operating loans for farm equipment, seed and fertilizer, as well as rural housing loans to help rural people buy, build or rent housing. FSA also procures various commodities to benefit low-income families through domestic food assistance programs. At the same time, the agency creates jobs by funding the growth and creation of rural businesses and cooperatives.
The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources and touches the life of every American. Reflecting President Obama's commitment to expanding economic opportunities in rural America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA are working to enhance availability of broadband, promote the development of renewable energy, to conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment, and promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply.