The USDA reorganization is officially rolling with recent Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue’s appointment of 4 individuals who will be in leadership rolls during the process.
In accordance with a directive in the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA created a new Under Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs as part of a realignment of several mission areas.
The reorganization also included a reconstituted mission area reporting to a newly-named Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. The U.S. Forest Service, given its size and importance, will be the only agency to report to the Under Secretary for National Resources and Environment. Perdue has named Acting Deputy Under Secretaries, who will serve in their roles until the Senate confirms permanent presidentially-nominated appointees.
Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs
Jason Hafemeister will be Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. He has been serving as Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services,
Hafemeister has been involved in agricultural farm and trade policy for over 25 years, including almost 20 at USDA and with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Hafemeister’s responsibilities have included serving as the lead U.S. negotiator on agriculture in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round negotiations, the Central America Free Trade Agreement, and China’s accession to the WTO. He was instrumental in finalizing the recent agreement to allow the importing of U.S. beef to China. Hafemeister received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, a master’s degree from the University of California at San Diego, and a law degree from Georgetown University.
Farm Production and Conservation
Robert Johansson will serve as the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, while also concurrently remaining USDA’s Chief Economist, a position he has held since July 2015.
Since 2001, Johansson has worked as an economist at USDA, in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, and at the Congressional Budget Office. In 2011 he was appointed senior economist for energy, environment, and agriculture on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers where he also participated in the White House Rural Council and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Johansson served as Deputy Chief Economist at the USDA from 2012 to 2014. He received B.A. in economics from Northwestern University and then served with the U.S. Peace Corps as an extension agent in several African countries from 1990 to 1995. After returning to his home State of Minnesota, he entered the graduate program in Agricultural Economics at the University of Minnesota and received his M.S. in 1997 and Ph.D. in 2000. His research has spanned a wide range of issues, including biofuels policy, water quality and quantity policies, regulatory economics, food security, and regional modeling of agricultural systems.
Natural Resources and Environment
Dan Jiron will fill the role of Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. With more than 29 years of public service and natural resources management, Jiron was appointed Associate Chief of the Forest Service in July 2016.
Prior to this appointment, Jiron served in many leadership positions, including Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region; Deputy Regional Forester in the Pacific Southwest Region; Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest; District Ranger on the Salt Lake Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; District Ranger on the South Park Ranger District of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, Comanche, and Cimarron National Grasslands; Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs of the Intermountain Region, National Press Officer in Washington, D.C.; and aide U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado. Jiron earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University and a Master’s degree from Regis University of Denver.
Under the reorganization plan, the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service.
Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service. Hazlett has worked on agriculture and rural issues for over 15 years. She most recently served as Chief Counsel to the Majority on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
Hazlett’s position represents an elevation of Rural Development, which had previously been in the portfolio of an under secretary, who in turn reported to the deputy secretary of agriculture. Instead, Rural Development will now report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture.
Hazlett, an Indiana native, has most recently served as Republican Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry where she was an advisor on many issues impacting rural America from Farm Bill programs to broadband and child nutrition.
In addition to her public service in Washington, Hazlett was the Director of Agriculture for her home state where she managed the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and was an advisor to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on agriculture and rural issues. She has also served as Chief of Staff to Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman where she assisted in the creation of the state’s first Office of Community and Rural Affairs, an agency devoted to providing financial and technical assistance to rural communities, and supervised management of the state’s housing finance, energy, and tourism agencies. Outside of public service, Hazlett was in private law practice where she advised clients on agriculture and environmental regulatory matters.
Hazlett is a graduate of Kansas State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural communications. In addition, she holds a law degree from Indiana University and a masters degree in agricultural law from the University of Arkansas.