The Senate late last week confirmed the nomination of Krysta Harden to the post of USDA Deputy Secretary, left vacant by former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who announced her resignation in March.
Harden, Chief of Staff at the USDA, was nominated June 27 for the position. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved her candidacy July 23.
Harden's previous roles, in addition to Chief of Staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack, include Staff Director for the House Committee on Agriculture subcommittee on Peanuts and Tobacco and Legislative Director, Chief of Staff, and Press Secretary for Rep. Charles Hatcher, D-Ga. Harden held posts with the National Association of Conservation Districts and the American Soybean Association as well.
Harden has been lauded as a successful leader in the areas of renewable energy and southern farm interests, given her agricultural roots. More than 100 ag groups signed on to support her initial nomination.
"Ms. Harden is a consensus builder, and exactly what is needed to connect the department's diverse group of stakeholders. As Americans become further removed from the sources of their food, fiber and fuel, USDA faces a daunting challenge, as does all of agriculture. We have no doubt that the Deputy Secretary will meet this challenge with the same balanced, pragmatic approach she has always used to tackle each issue," said American Soybean Association President Danny Murphy.
The Senate last week also gave USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment nominee Robert Bonnie a nod of approval.
Bonnie has been Vilsack’s Senior Environment and Climate Adviser, and previously directed the Center for Conservation Incentives at Environmental Defense Fund.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Bonnie's and Harden's nominations come as just a few in a series of other nominations and approvals, including posts for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Rural Business and Cooperative Services.
Jason Weller has been officially appointed as the USDA NRCS Chief. He has been serving as Acting Chief since former Chief Dave White’s departure in December.
Weller served as White’s Chief of Staff and has previously worked for the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Budget Committee, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Lillian Salerno was also appointed as USDA’s Rural Business and Cooperative Services Administrator in July. She had been Acting Administrator since last September and had previously served as a Special Assistant in the Rural Housing Service at USDA.
Additional second term appointments at USDA are expected to be announced in August and September, NSAC said.