USDA Announces Rural Development State Directors

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a full list of State Directors for USDA Rural Development and for the Farm Service Agency on November 3, 2017. The RD list below is from USDA’s press release.

Rural Development State Directors

Alabama: Chris Beeker

Chris Beeker grew up on a catfish and cattle farm in the smallest county of his state and through extensive experience of working on the family farm and other business ventures has firsthand knowledge of the positive and important impacts of USDA programs for all communities and especially rural America.

Alaska: Jerry Ward

Jerry Ward is an Athabascan Indian from the Caribou Tribe, born and raised in Alaska, and has a record of public service, including in the U.S. Navy Seabees in Vietnam, as Rural Affairs Coordinator with the Department of Corrections, as Legislative Liaison for the Alaska Energy Authority. He has also served as a member of the State House of Representative, with a seat on the Finance Committee, and in the State Senate as Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee addressing rural Alaska issues.

Arizona: J.C. Sherman III

J.C. Sherman comes to USDA with vast experience from the Departments of Energy and Commerce, in addition to private sector experience from Executive Protection, Director of Sales Operations for a division of Schneider Electric and Business Development Director with other fortune 50 companies.

Arkansas: David Branscum

David Branscum is serving his fourth term in the Arkansas House of Representatives and is a cattleman who has been active with several civic organizations serving to empower rural Arkansas.

California: Kim Dolbow Vann

Kim Vann has been working and serving in California’s Rural Communities for nearly 20 years and her career gives her an excellent understanding of California’s’ Rural Communities needs and the experience to solve problems.

Colorado: Sallie Clark

Sallie Clark is a former El Paso County, Colorado commissioner, city councilmember, well known small-business entrepreneur, and past President of the National Association of Counties (NACo). She has spent much of her career representing rural America.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island: George Krivda

George Krivda has worked at the state Department of Agriculture for nearly ten years serving as a Project Manager, Public Information Officer, Legislative Program Manager and Chief of Staff.

Delaware and Maryland: Denise Lovelady

Denise Lovelady brings over 20 years of executive and management experience in both the public and private sectors to USDA, specifically in the areas of government, legislative affairs, public relations, economic development, agriculture, natural resources, real estate, and community outreach.

Florida: Sydney Gruters

Sydney Gruters has worked for U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan for more than 10 years in an official capacity and has served as the congressman’s liaison regarding all USDA issues that affect rural development.

Georgia: Joyce White

Joyce White served as Chief of Staff in the Georgia Department of Agriculture, was an executive assistant for the CEO of Georgia-Pacific, served the same role in Governor Sonny Perdue’s office, and has focused on helping rural Georgia.

Hawaii: Gigi Jones

Gigi Jones founded a grassroots organization known as Cool Our Keiki and has worked in construction, small business, engineering and business development for over 20 years. She knows first-hand the challenges of living in remote and rural areas as she has lived, worked and volunteered in rural areas inside and outside of the U.S. for many years.

Idaho: Layne Bangerter

Layne Bangerter comes to RD directly from his role at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He previously held varied roles in the Fish and Wildlife Service and served as State Director for Senator Mike Crapo.

Illinois: Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson is a 3rd generation farmer, lifelong resident of rural Illinois, and past Illinois State Director for RD. He has served in leadership roles in a variety of agricultural, community, and not-for-profit organizations.

Indiana: Michael Reed Dora

As a first generation agricultural producer of livestock and grains since 1975, Michael Dora brings to the Trump Administration a deep knowledge of farming and business skills along with wide-ranging experiences of dedicated service and leadership to his state and community.

Iowa: Annette Sweeney

Annette Sweeney brings local and international experience to Rural Development, having served as a teacher, family farmer, church volunteer, and most recently as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives.

Kansas: Lynne Hinrichsen

Lynne Hinrichsen joined the Kansas Department of Agriculture in 2013 as the Agribusiness Development Director. Prior to serving in the public sector, she worked in sales, marketing, advertising and human resource consulting.

Kentucky: Hilda Legg

Hilda Legg brings more than 30 years of experience in federal government agency management, as a consultant for rural infrastructure, in economic development in rural Appalachia, in education, project management, and as a business owner. She has served under three U.S. presidents to further opportunities for rural communities and residents in job creation and economic growth.

Louisiana: Dr. Carrie Castille

Dr. Carrie Castille served as the Associate Commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, held a faculty position with the Louisiana State University AgCenter, and created the successful Louisiana Master Farmer Program.

Maine: Tim Hobbs

Tim Hobbs brings over fifteen years of experience working with and for potato growers, processors, and dealers in Maine on issues that affect their competitiveness and profitability.

Michigan: Jason Allen

Jason Allen is a small businessman, veteran, and former State Senator, who currently works on rural development for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Minnesota: Brad Finstad

Brad Finstad served three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and is currently the CEO of the Center for Rural Policy and Development, which is Minnesota’s only statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan rural policy research center.

Mississippi: John Rounsaville

John Rounsaville served as State Director for USDA Rural Development in the Administration of President George W. Bush and brings to the Trump Administration two decades of experience in economic and community development, infrastructure planning, and public policy.

Missouri: Jeff Case

Jeff Case is Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager at Rabo AgriFinance, LLC and has spent his career working in the agriculture industry in the areas of Production, Finance and Education.

Montana: Charles Robison

Charles first joined USDA as a Forest Service firefighter in 1998, working on an engine crew, as a Hotshot and as a helitack rappeller. He looks forward to pursuing his passion for the struggles of rural Montana and the working families who call it home.

Nebraska: Karl Elmshaeuser

Karl Elmshaeuser has served as the Executive Director for the West Central Nebraska Development District for the past 11 years, served two terms on the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, currently serves on the Nebraska Regional Officials Council and the National Association of Development Organizations, served six years in the US Marine Corps, and is a University of Nebraska graduate.

Nevada: Philip Cowee

Philip Cowee has spent nearly 20 years developing properties and running businesses in Lyon County, lives in Dayton with his wife and five children, and is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno.

New Hampshire: Anthony Lindaros

Army Reserve Veteran Anthony Lindaros brings over 18 years of business development experience and executive management in the pharmaceutical industry.

North Carolina: Bob Chandler

Bob dedicated his career to agriculture from starting his first internship with USDA in 1974, serving for 35 years, and retiring in 2009. Since 2009, Bob has been Consulting for a Faith based Nonprofit and holding USDA Mediations for the North Carolina Agricultural Mediation Program and Farm Agricultural Resources and Mediation in Virginia.

North Dakota: Clare Carlson

Clare Carlson has served nearly eight years as the State Director of USDA Rural Development and was previously a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives.

Ohio: Dave Hall

Dave Hall’s experience in agriculture began in the late 1960’s when he started working on his grandparents’ farm and has since served as a Commissioner for the Ohio Exposition Commission for the Ohio State Fair and Chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Oklahoma: Lee Denney

Lee Denney practiced mixed animal practice for 35 years and has served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and on the Cushing City Commission.

Oregon: John Huffman

John Huffman has spent the past 10 years as an Oregon State Representative and prior to his legislative work, he owned and managed a successful radio station for 22 years in North Central Oregon.

Pennsylvania: Curt Coccodrilli

Curt Coccodrilli has been integrally involved in numerous efforts to address the needs of rural Pennsylvania, promoting rural economic development and leading campaigns to ensure state and federal regulations recognize the need for such development.

South Carolina: Debbie S. Turbeville

Debbie Turbeville is being promoted to the position of State Director after spending her entire career serving in almost every role at the state level of the agency, having risen in the ranks from the GS-2 level when she started in 1982.

South Dakota: Julie Gross

Julie Gross is currently the Economic Development Director for the Lake Area Improvement Corporation in Madison. She understands and appreciates the needs of rural communities and is looking forward to helping them become stronger and more vibrant with the programs USDA offers.

Tennessee: Jim Tracy

Jim Tracy ran a small business in a rural middle Tennessee community for 24 years before being elected to the State Senate in 2004 as an advocate for agriculture issues in the state.

Texas: Edd Hargett

Edd Hargett began working for Electric Cooperatives in 1974 and has served as general manager of both distribution and G&T systems.

Utah: Randy Parker

Randy Parker comes to the USDA having served as chief executive officer of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation for most of the past 14 years.

Virginia: Elizabeth Walker Green

Elizabeth has been working in Federal and State politics for over thirty years.

Washington: Kirk Pearson

Kirk Pearson has served in the Washington State Legislature for 17 years, serving on the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade, and Economic Development Committee and as Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee. He has promoted legislation to help rural communities grow and thrive in the state of Washington.

West Virginia: Kris Warner

Kris Warner has more than 25 years of leadership in West Virginia business development and is also a charter member of the state-wide program Leadership Monongalia, which is designed to educate and sustain community leaders.

Wisconsin: Frank Frassetto

Frank Frassetto has 30 years of public sector experience, previously served as state director at USDA RD from 2001 to 2009, was the Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection at the WI Dept. of Agriculture, and resides in the rural town of Black Wolf and has been its Chairman since 1997.

Wyoming: Chad Rupe

Chad Rupe has served previously with USDA, as an officer in the U.S. Army, and as a community banker in Wyoming for 11 years.

Trump Administration Proposes to Eliminate Most Rural Housing Programs

Register for HAC's webinar overview of Trump Administration's BudgetRegister for HAC’s webinar overview of Trump Administration’s BudgetThe Administration’s first full budget request, released on May 23, would eliminate all USDA rural housing programs except tenant aid, loan guarantees, and grants for home repairs. It would create a new Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant program, comprised of four existing programs – no new infrastructure efforts are provided, at least for areas covered by USDA Rural Development. It does not mention, and does not provide funding for, USDA’s recently proposed reorganization that would eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA) would get $1.345 billion, and Section 542 vouchers would receive $20 million. All RA funds would be used to renew existing contracts. All rural housing direct loan programs would be defunded, as would farmworker housing grants, housing preservation grants, the MPR rental preservation program, and the Rural Community Development Initiative.

A stack of President Trump's FY 2018 Budget Proposal to Congress

Section 502 guarantees for homeownership and Section 538 guarantees for rental housing production would remain at, or slightly above, FY17 levels. Because these programs cover their own costs through fees, the government pays only the costs of administering them.

The Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant program would receive $162 million to replace Section 504 grants (Section 504 loans would be eliminated), community facilities grants, telemedicine distance learning grants, and broadband grants. There are no guidelines for dividing the funds among those four purposes, so some of these programs could receive no funding at all. Also, almost half – “not more than $80,000,000” – of this pool of funding can be used in Appalachia, while no other regions are mentioned.

Congress will now take over the FY18 appropriations process. House Republican leaders are expected to release their own budget in June. [tdborder][/tdborder]

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.
(dollars in millions)

FY16 Approp.

FY17 Approp.

FY18 Trump Budget Proposal

502 Single Fam. Direct
Self-Help setaside




502 Single Family Guar.




504 VLI Repair Loans




504 VLI Repair Grants




515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns.




514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns.




516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts.




521 Rental Assistance




523 Self-Help TA




533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants




538 Rental Hsg. Guar.




Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR)




542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers




Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init.




a. Combined into a new Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants pool along with community facilities grants, telemedicine distance learning grants, and broadband grants.
b. Also proposes to rescind $4 million in unobligated 514/516 funds.
c. Includes $40 million in advance funding for FY18.
d. Only for renewals of existing RA contracts.
e. Also proposes to rescind $11 million in currently unobligated self-help funds.
f. Also proposes to rescind $4 million in unobligated MPR funds.

USDA Secretary Answers Questions on Proposed Rural Development Changes, White House Accepts Comments (updated May 18)

Update, May 18, 2017: A notice in the May 18 Federal Register invites interested parties to submit comments at on the proposed reorganization. The deadline is June 14.

Several members of Congress quizzed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about a proposed reorganization plan that would eliminate the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD). The Secretary appeared before the House Agriculture Committee on May 17 to discuss the state of the rural economy, and the hearing covered the wide spectrum of subjects under USDA’s jurisdiction.

Committee members who expressed concerns about the possible demotion of RD issues noted that they viewed the reorganization proposal in light of the request in the Administration’s preliminary budget to eliminate some water/wastewater and business programs. Perdue assured them repeatedly that RD’s program administrators would have more access to him than if the Under Secretary position remained in place. He said they would report to an Assistant Secretary who would be approved by the Senate (as the Under Secretary is), and they would also have direct “walk-in”; access to the Secretary himself. He asserted that he believes rural development is extremely important and therefore wants to be more directly involved in it.

In one of his answers, Perdue tried to summarize RD’s areas of responsibility, citing business, economic development, and utilities. He did not mention housing.

Some Committee members pointed out that USDA did not request public comment on the proposal until after it had submitted the plan to Congress for a 30-day review period. Perdue said he was not familiar with the notice requirements and could not explain why the actions were taken in this order.

Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Issues Formed

A new Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was created by an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump on April 25, 2017. The task force will “identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes” to promote agriculture, rural economic development, infrastructure improvements, food safety, energy security, and more. The Executive Order, titled “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America,” tells the task force to provide state, local, and tribal officials, as well as “farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other rural stakeholders,” with an opportunity to make suggestions.

President Trump signed the Executive Order at a “Farmers Roundtable” held at the White House on April 25, Secretary Perdue’s first day on the job.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue will chair the task force, which will include representatives of at least 21 additional federal departments and agencies. A report is due in six months, recommending changes to carry out the Executive Order’s goals.

The Executive Order also eliminates the Obama Administration’s White House Rural Council.

Sonny Perdue Becomes Agriculture Secretary

Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, 2017, after an 87-11 Senate confirmation vote on April 24.

USDA’s announcement and profile of Perdue says his “policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions.”

First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper. Second, he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity. Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist. And fourth, Perdue will always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe. Perdue’s father’s words still ring true: We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.

Nominees have not yet been announced for other USDA appointed positions.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2016

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.86% from September 2015 to September 2016, a decrease of 217 properties consisting of 253 Section 515 properties and 18 Section 514 properties. This represents a loss of 4,220 apartment units or 0.97 percent. The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,588. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,504.

HAC Partners with Local Organization in Rhode Island

Seven Rhode Island families hope to move into their new Colonial-style, single-family houses before the holidays thanks to NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. The families are selected based on income, credit, and employment criteria, including having earnings between 50-80% of the area median income for Providence County. For more than a year, they have contributed about 30 hours of work per week building the houses. They have worked together, building each other’s homes in phases. Their “sweat equity” has cut costs nearly in half by building about 65% of the homes, with licensed professionals hired to do the electrical and plumbing work requiring expertise. Through the program, the USDA offers the homeowners low-interest loans based on their incomes to make owning a home affordable. In addition, the Housing Assistance Council provided funding to the Fernwood housing development to help make building the homes a reality. Read the article here!

Opportunities for Promoting Credit for Affordable Housing in Rural America

HAC participated in a White House Rural Council/USDA convening on access to mortgage credit in May. The Center for American Progress summarized the event in a paper entitled Opportunities for Promoting Credit for Affordable Housing in Rural America.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2015

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.39% from September 2014 to September 2015, a decrease of 186 Section 515 properties and 19 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 2,646 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,377. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,332.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2014

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.25% from September 2013 to September 2014, a decrease of 142 Section 515 properties and an increase of 45 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 1,645 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,022. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,054.