The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Vilsack chief of staff to take California post

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is expected to announce today that he will appoint Karen Ross, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff, as the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, a source close to the situation has told The Hagstrom Report.

Ross has served as Vilsack’s chief of staff since November 2009. Before her USDA appointment, Ross served as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. Her appointment as Vilsack’s chief of staff pleased Californians who had criticized the Obama administration for not appointing more Californians to higher level positions, but Ross also brought a Midwestern background to the administration. She was born and raised on a family farm in western Nebraska and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture traces its roots back to 1880. With 88,000 farms and ranches, California agriculture is nearly a $36.6 billion dollar industry that generates at least $100 billion in related economic activity, according to the department’s website.

Former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was California secretary of food and agriculture in the late 1990s.