The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Vilsack announces staff appointments

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the following appointments today:
  • Ann Wright as Agriculture deputy assistant secretary for congressional relations, a position she has been holding on an acting basis. Wright was deputy secretary for marketing and regulatory programs beginning in June 2009, and also served as the acting undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs from August through October of that year. Before joining the Obama administration at USDA, Wright worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
  • Juan M. Garcia as Farm Service Agency deputy administrator for farm programs. Garcia has been acting deputy administrator since May and before that was the FSA state executive director for Texas. Garcia previously was the agricultural program manager for FSA in Texas, and during his 34-year career with the agency has served as a district director in south Texas as well as east Texas, and as county executive director in Nolan, Hidalgo and Cameron counties.
  • Elanor Starmer as a special assistant in the marketing and regulatory programs mission area. Starmer previously worked at Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit group, where as western region director she coordinated a staff of food and water policy advocates and organizers in 14 western states. She also helped launch a research program on federal policy and livestock production at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, and has worked as a consultant for family farm organizations in the Midwest and for the agriculture policy office of the Organization of American States in El Salvador.
  • Todd Batta as legislative director in the office of congressional relations. Batta previously worked for Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis. He also worked for the Senate Agriculture Committee for four years, managing policies related to agricultural credit, rural economic development, forest management and appropriations.
  • Kisha Davis, a White House fellow, as a senior adviser working with the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, the Food Safety and Inspection Service and Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Davis, a physician, is on leave from her primary care practice at a culturally and socioeconomically diverse community health center in Maryland. Davis will serve as a liaison to the health care provider community for the FNCS, Food Safety and MRP mission areas.
  • Max Holtzman, as acting deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, when Darci Vetter, the deputy undersecretary, takes maternity leaves. Holtzman, currently senior adviser to the secretary, advises him on biotechnology, international trade and aquaculture issues. Before his appointment, he was a principal of the Holtzman Group in Coral Gables, Fla., where he helped provide strategic consulting to multi-national companies doing business in the United States. He also worked at the Florida Department of Agriculture.
  • James Gore, the acting director of the office of the executive secretariat, as a detailee to National Resources Conservation Chief Dave White.
  • Julie Grogan-Brown, confidential assistant to NRCS Chief White, as a detailee on the People’s Garden Initiative.