WASHINGTON — Jewel H. Bronaugh, Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, was nominated this month to be deputy secretary of agriculture. If confirmed by the US Senate, she would be the first African American woman to serve in the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) No. 2 position, tasked with day-to-day operations of what is approximately a 100,000-employee department.
Prior to her appointment to the Virginia government position in 2018, Bronaugh was for five years the agriculture dean at Virginia State University, served as executive director to VSU’s Center for Agricultural Research, Engagement and Outreach, and was the Virginia state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.
The Biden administration this month also announced a slew of other appointments preceding the confirmation of nominee Tom Vilsack as the Secretary of Agriculture:
- Olugbenga Ajilore, named senior adviser in the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development. Previously she was a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, was president of the National Economic Association, and an associate professor of economics at the University of Toledo.
- Farah Ahmad, named chief of staff in the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development. Previously she was senior program coordinator in the Office of Consumer Education, senior adviser to the chief operating officer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, program manager on the Community and Economic Development team in the Rural Business Cooperative Service at USDA, and senior policy analyst at Center for American Progress.
- Sara Bleich, named senior adviser, COVID-19, in the Office of the Secretary. Previously she was a professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and worked at the USDA as a White House Fellow senior policy adviser for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
- Robert Bonnie was named deputy chief of staff for policy and senior adviser, climate, in the Office of the Secretary. Previously he was executive in residence at Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, director of the Farm and Forests Carbon Solutions Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and at the USDA as undersecretary for natural resources and environment and senior adviser on climate and the environment.
- Kumar Chandran was named senior adviser, nutrition, in the Office of the Secretary at USDA. He previously was policy director for FoodCorps, chief of staff to the Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, and at the national nonprofit Share Our Strength.
- Stacy Dean was named deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, overseeing the Food and Nutrition Service. She previously was vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and a budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget.
- Katharine Ferguson was named chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary. Previously she was associate director of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, chief of staff for the White House Domestic Policy Council, chief of staff for rural development at the USDA, and staff to several US Senators.
- Marcus Graham was named deputy administrator for field operations in the Farm Service Agency. Graham previously was the legislative director in the Office of External Affairs, and held positions at the Farm Service Agency.
- David Grahn was named principal deputy general counsel, Office of General Counsel. He previously served as director of the Office of Regulatory Policy at the Farm Credit Administration and for 26 years in the Office of the General Counsel at USDA.
- Matt Herrick was named director of communications in the Office of Communications. He most recently was senior vice president with the International Dairy Foods Association, and also worked as USDA director of communications in the Obama administration, as press director for the US Agency for International Development, and with Oxfam America and the Rockefeller Foundation.
- Justin Maxson was named deputy undersecretary for rural development. Previously he was CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
- Gregory Parham was named interim deputy assistant secretary for administration. He previously was assistant secretary for administration, administrator of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and deputy administrator for marketing and regulatory programs, business services.
- Justo Robles was named White House liaison in the Office of the Secretary. Previously he was Georgia Deputy Coalitions Director for Biden for President, deputy director and chief of staff for Energy Independence Now, and advance lead in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, among other Department of Defense positions.
- Mike Schmidt was named senior adviser in the Office of the Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Previously he was senior professional staff for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, and held several positions at the USDA, including associate administrator for policy and programs in the Farm Service Agency.
- Heather Dawn Thompson was named director of the Office of Tribal Relations reporting to the Secretary of Agriculture. Previously she was a member of the American Indian Law Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig, a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Justice, and a law clerk with the attorney general’s Office for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
- Mae Wu was named deputy undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs. Previously she was a senior director at the Natural Resource Defense Council and served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and its National Drinking Water Advisory Council.