The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Foreign Ag Service names new general sales manager

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Administrator John Brewer today named Suzanne Heinen, a career FAS officer, as general sales manager and associate administrator of the agency, and said that Janet Nuzum, a politically appointed associate administrator who has been the general sales manager would shift her duties to associate administrator for policy.

FAS is run by an administrator and two associate administrators whose duties vary with each administration. The general sales manager is charged with increasing exports and running the programs that encourage foreign countries and companies to import U.S. farm products, and the position is considered one of the most important in FAS and within USDA.

A spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack confirmed the changes.

“Sue Heinen, one of USDA’s most senior foreign service officers, recently returned to Washington and is assuming the associate administrator position, now that previous associate administrator Suzanne Hale has retired,” the spokesman said.

“Given Sue’s extensive experience in food security, capacity building and export promotion from her previous posts, it is natural for her to assume the global sales manager portfolio, where she will work to build on the record agricultural exports that benefit American producers.

“Likewise, Janet Nuzum’s extensive trade policy experience made her a natural choice to move over to the position of associate administrator (policy).”

In an email to FAS staff obtained by The Hagstrom Report, Brewer said that Heinen will oversee the Office of Trade Programs and the Office of Capacity Building and Development, while Nuzum will oversee the Offices of Agreements and Scientific Affairs; Global Analysis; and Country and Regional Affairs.

Brewer said the changes go into effect on Feb. 14, although Heinien will be on official travel and home leave until Feb. 22. Christian Foster will serve as acting general sales manager from Feb. 14 to 21.

The changes are the latest in a long period of administrative turmoil at the top of FAS since the Obama administration took office. Brewer, a political appointee, held the general sales manager position himself when he was one of the associate administrators. When Michael Michener, the first FAS administrator in the Obama administration, left to work in the office of Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, Brewer took over as administrator, and Nuzum, who had worked on Capitol Hill and in the private sector, came on board as an associate administrator with the general sales manager portfolio.

Heinen, a member of the FAS Senior Foreign Service, was agricultural counselor in the office of the U.S. ambassador to the Rome agencies until Michener moved to that embassy. Since her return from Rome last year she has been part of a team advising Vilsack on global food security and on the administration’s Feed the Future international agricultural development initiative. She has also held posts in Guatemala, Mexico and Russia.

FAS’s traditional mandate has been promotion of exports and analysis of agricultural production in other countries through its offices in embassies throughout the world. Over the years, FAS has helped other countries develop into markets for U.S. agricultural products, but the Obama administration has used the agency to help manage bigger agricultural development efforts, particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Longtime career employees and former political appointees have privately questioned the use of FAS as a development agency, but at the same time U.S. agricultural exports have soared. One former FAS official said the personnel decisions announced today did not seem to have any clear message about FAS’s agenda, but FAS employees have said they believe officials are very aware of White House expectations that agricultural exports will continue to grow to help fulfill President Obama’s promise to double exports over the next five years.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has proposed eliminating FAS as a way to curb the federal deficit and there are other pressures on Capitol Hill and within the administration to cut some of its programs.