The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

USDA gets new general counsel

The Agriculture Department finally got a general counsel today when Ramona Romero was sworn in.

The position, a political appointment, had remained open until President Obama nominated Romero last year. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on December 22.

Romero has a stellar background in corporate law, but her appointment raised eyebrows among advocates for small farmers and opponents of genetically modified seeds and the foods derived from GMO crops. A graduate of Barnard College in New York and Harvard Law School, Romero’s last position before her appointment was corporate counsel at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (DuPont), where she provided legal oversight for the acquisition of transportation, distribution, supply-chain management, travel and energy resources, and managed related strategic litigation. Since 2008, Romero had also served as general counsel of Sentinel Transportation LLC, a DuPont joint venture.

Romero is also the immediate past president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, and a founding member and former officer of the Dominican American National Roundtable. She is the recipient of multiple honors, including the Lucero (“guiding star”) Award from Latino Justice PRLDEF (formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund) and Hispanic Business Magazine’s recognition in 2007 as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States.

Before becoming DuPont’s corporate counsel, Romero held several other positions with the company, including senior counsel and then corporate counsel for complex commercial and antitrust litigation (1998-2005), and corporate counsel and manager of operations and partnering (2005-2007). In that role, Romero directed all facets of DuPont legal’s industry-leading partnering program and oversaw litigation-related operations.

From 1988 to 1998, she was a commercial, government contracts and white collar litigator at Crowell & Moring in Washington. She has served on several boards and been affiliated with various professional organizations, including the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, both the House of Delegates and the Presidential Initiative Commission on Diversity of the American Bar Association, the advisory committee of The O’Connor Judicial Selection Initiative at the University of Denver, and The Justice at Stake Campaign.

According to USDA’s website, the office of the general counsel (OGC) is an independent legal agency that provides legal advice and services to the Secretary of Agriculture and to all other officials and agencies of the department with respect to all USDA programs and activities.