Top agriculture advisors and policymakers are beginning to depart the Obama Administration as the president’s second term nears.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White will retire effective Dec. 3, the agency announced recently.
White was a career conservationist with NRCS, working in Missouri, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Montana, as well as with the Senate Agriculture Committee during the development of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. He also served on the White House Task Force for Livable Communities during the Clinton Administration.
White has been NRCS chief for four years. Agriculture groups including NAWG wrote him this week to express appreciation for his “tireless efforts” to advance conservation policies.
White will be succeeded by Jason Weller, current NRCS chief of staff and previously a Congressional and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) professional staff member.
This week was also the last in the Administration for Larry Elworth, the chief agriculture advisor to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson. Elworth often drew on his background as a farmer to explain the realities of agriculture within the environmental regulatory organization and to communicate to farmers about EPA’s intentions. No replacement for Elworth has yet been named.
These two key retirements are unlikely to be the last departures by agriculture experts within the Administration or in Congress.
It is quite common for many top aides and department heads to change with the onset of a new administration or a second term. Many jobs in the Administration and on Congressional staffs are demanding or do not compensate employees as well as the private sector. As with other parts of the agriculture community, many in ag policy are also nearing retirement age and ready to move toward a slower pace of work and life.
Craig Jagger, who spent more than a decade as the chief economist at the House Agriculture Committee, retired recently and is now consulting and speaking about budget and farm bill issues.
It was reported several weeks ago that U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk also plans to leave his position to return to his native Texas.
Several Members of Congress closely associated with agriculture are also wrapping up their final weeks in Washington.
North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who is also chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is retiring after this term.
A half dozen Members of the House Agriculture Committee will also be departing, though not by choice. Reps. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and Tim Holden (D-Penn.) lost their primaries earlier in the year, while Reps. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) lost their seats in the general election a few weeks ago.