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USDA personnel changes announced

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the following personnel changes at USDA:

Deputy General Counsel Steve Silverman will resign his position on March 16 to become a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Mike Schmidt, the acting chief of staff for the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Adminstration, has been appointed to serve as senior adviser in the Marketing & Regulatory Programs mission area.

Schmidt worked for six years for former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. In 2004, he was the congressional science fellow in the office of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and handled agriculture issues in that office. Schmidt received his master’s of science degree in public understanding of environmental change from University College London, a master’s of science degree in cop and soil environmental sciences and undergraduate degrees in environmental science and biology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Sara Eckhouse, who previously was acting chief of staff in the Agricultural Marketing Service and mostly recently worked in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, will rejoin USDA as chief of staff in the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Eckhouse joined USDA as a confidential assistant in AMS and later acting chief of staff for MRP. Before joining the administration, she was a field organizer for the Barack Obama presidential campaign in Iowa and Ohio in 2008, and assisted the post-campaign analysis team in Chicago following the election.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated from Harvard with a degree in biological anthropology.