Ronald Howell Appointed USDA FSA State Executive Director for Virginia

On January 13, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to appoint additional leaders to serve as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Directors, including the Virginia position.

The USDA’s FSA implements agricultural policy, administers credit and loan programs, and manages conservation, commodity, disaster and farm marketing programs in each U.S. State. Its mission is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all Americans. State Executive Directors oversee this work, ensuring the needs of local constituents are met and that USDA resources are distributed equitably and fairly.

Ronald Howell has been named as USDA FSA State Executive Director for Virginia. Howell comes to this new position with more than 12 years of professional experience in higher education, state and federal government. In summer 2018, he began his tenure as the Director of Operations and Management in the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University. In this capacity, he oversees day-to-day operations of the College and the University’s Farm. He also carries an administrative appointment in the Department of Agriculture and serves as a faculty instructor, teaching courses in agriculture education and mechanization.

Previously, Howell served as the Special Assistant/Advisor for Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives to the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, in the Office of Virginia Governors McAuliffe and Northam, respectively. Across the Commonwealth, he worked to strengthen outreach efforts as well as minority and limited resourced producers’ participation in USDA and state-based agricultural and conservation programs. Additionally, he provided recommendations for the Virginia Farm Business Development Program (VFBD) and the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Program.

“I am thankful to have the opportunity to return to USDA to serve as FSA State Executive Director in Virginia. Agriculture is Virginia’s number one industry, and I am committed to advancing the agency’s mission at the state level and ensuring the voice of every customer that depends on programs and services provided by FSA is heard,” Howell said in a statement. “There are tremendous opportunities ahead to open doors of access and to build partnerships with Virginia Farm Bureau and other ag-based organizations to advocate for the wonderful men and women responsible for providing the food, fuel, feed, and fiber supply for our great nation and globally!”

Howell received his B.S. in Agriculture Business and Economics from Virginia State University in 2009 and earned a Master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2012. In 2021, he received his doctorate degree in P-20 Education and Community Leadership with a focus in Agriculture Education from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. He resides in Spring Grove, (Surry Co.) Virginia.

Virginia Farm Bureau looks forward to working with Mr. Howell to support and promote Virginia agriculture and farmers.

Virginia Farm Bureau Leaders Tapped for State-level Agriculture Positions

Two leaders with ties to the state’s largest agricultural advocacy group have been appointed to top-level agriculture positions by Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin.

Matthew “Matt” Lohr has been named the next secretary of agriculture and forestry, and Joseph “Joe” Guthrie was named commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Both of these agricultural leaders have been involved with advocating for Virginia agriculture and forestry through their involvement with Virginia Farm Bureau,” said Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor. “We look forward to continuing our long-time working relationship with them in these new roles as they strive to advance agricultural interests at the state and national levels.”

Lohr has served the past two years as chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency with more than 10,000 employees across 3,000 field offices and an operating budget of over $4.5 billion.

He was raised on a Virginia Century Farm in the Shenandoah Valley and is a fifth-generation farmer. Lohr is also a past president of Rockingham County Farm Bureau and was Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers’ first Excellence in Agriculture Award winner in 2002. He went on to capture the American Farm Bureau Federation Excellence in Agriculture Award in 2003. He also was named the VFBF Warren Beach Award recipient in 2009 for his contributions to the organization’s Young Farmers Program.

“We know that Matt’s leadership and commitment to agriculture, as well as his hands-on experience, will serve him well in this role,” Pryor said.

Lohr developed his passion for public service and agricultural policy while serving as both a state and national FFA officer before graduating from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

He previously served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2006-2010 before being appointed VDACS commissioner. His other career experiences include serving as director of the Farm Credit Knowledge Center, teaching middle school agriscience, operating his own leadership development company and serving as president of Valley Pike Farm Inc., his family’s farming operation.

Guthrie has served an elected official for 10 years. He was a member of the Pulaski County School Board from 2011 through 2015 and has served on the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors since 2015. He was elected chair of that board in 2020 and 2021.

Guthrie, who was raised on his family’s farm in Pulaski County, is a past president of Pulaski County Farm Bureau and winner of the 2001 VFBF Young Farmers Discussion Meet competition.

Guthrie currently serves as a senior instructor at Virginia Tech and has been teaching courses in business management, finance, communications and leadership in the college’s Agricultural Technology Program since 2007.

“Joe has dedicated many years to inspiring and educating the next generation of agricultural leaders, and we feel certain his skills will serve him well in his new position,” Pryor noted.

Guthrie received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Virginia Tech and earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics and international trade from Massey University in New Zealand, where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar. He has served as president of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Association and president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. He was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board.

Governor-Elect Youngkin Announces Selection of the Natural Resources Secretary and Director of Environmental Quality

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced he has chosen Andrew Wheeler as the next Secretary of Natural Resources and Michael Rolband as the next Director of Environmental Quality.

“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels. Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable and growing power supply meeting Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer,” said Governor-elect Youngkin. “Together, we will address Virginia’s ongoing environmental, energy and natural resources challenges, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay, fully funding our best management practices, solving longstanding stormwater management issues and establishing a Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority. Finally, David Paylor should be commended for his decades of service to DEQ. He has been an invaluable public servant, and I wish him well in his next adventures. I’m sure he will continue to make significant contributions to the Commonwealth.”

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler, Secretary of Natural Resources
Andrew brings extensive experience and passion to the administration, dedicating his career to advancing sound environmental policies. He completed his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his MBA at George Mason University, and his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University in English and Biology.

In 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew as the 15th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was previously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the EPA deputy administrator in 2018. He began his career during the George H. W. Bush Administration as a special assistant in EPA’s Pollution Prevention and Toxics office as a career employee.

He served as a principal and the team leader of the Energy and Environment Practice Group at FaegreBD Consulting, as well as Counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm, where he practiced since 2009. He also served as the co-chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Industry team across the entire firm.

Prior to his work with the firm, Andrew served for six years as the majority staff director and chief counsel, as well as the Minority Staff Director, of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Before his time at the full Senate EPW Committee, he served in a similar capacity for six years for the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands and Nuclear Safety.

Andrew is the past chairman of the National Energy Resource Organization (NERO) and a Stennis Fellow. He is also an Eagle Scout.

Michael Rolband, Director of Environmental Quality
Mike Rolband comes to the administration with an abundance of knowledge and hands-on experience, known as an environmental expert by colleagues across the United States, the team is grateful to have him as part of the administration. A graduate of Cornell University, Mike has a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering along with an MBA and Master of Engineering Degree.

Mike founded Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI), and grew the company from a one-man firm to a multi-disciplinary natural and historic resources consulting firm where he managed and led more than 160 regulatory and compliance specialists, scientists, engineers, surveyors, GIS specialists, archeologists, ecosystem and restoration specialists and arborists. Over nearly 30 years, his company provided services and permit approvals on more than 8,000 projects across 300,000 acres in the region, including data centers, major transportation infrastructure, master planned communities and office and industrial developments. He founded WSSI to assist economic developers in navigating the Clean Water Act, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and local environmental regulations.

Mike and WSSI started Virginia’s first wetland mitigation bank in 1991 (approved in 1994, fourth in the U.S.). Virginia’s first mitigation bank to provide stream credits (2001), and Virginia’s first urban stream bank in 2006. He has received numerous industry achievement and civic engagement awards and is frequently invited by public and private sector entities to conduct seminars on storm water management, mitigation, wetland and stream regulatory policy, and Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act regulations.

Mike established the Resource Protection Group, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit that has awarded more than $5.4 million in grants to date, advancing the science of wetland and steam restoration and funding the graduate school education of dozens of students over the years through these research projects. From 2017 to 2020, Cornell University appointed him a Professor of Practice where he taught Wetlands and Stream Restoration. Mike is a registered Professional Engineer, Professional Wetland Delineator and a Professional Wetland Scientist (Emeritus).

Governor-Elect Youngkin Announces Agriculture Appointments

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin today announced Matt Lohr as the next Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and Joseph Guthrie as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin today announced Matt Lohr as the next Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and Joseph Guthrie as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Agriculture is the Commonwealth’s largest independent industry and plays a crucial role in Virginia’s economy and communities. Matt and Joseph bring decades worth of hands-on experience that will give Virginia a competitive advantage in the agriculture industry. Together, we will deliver for our ranchers, farmers and all Virginians to help ensure our farmers and ranchers thrive,” said Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

Matt Lohr, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Matt Lohr was raised on a Virginia century family farm in the Shenandoah Valley. As a fifth-generation farmer, he has spent his entire life working for the betterment of the agricultural industry and rural America.

Matt developed his passion for public service and agricultural policy while serving as both a state and national FFA officer before graduating from Virginia Tech with a B.S. degree in agricultural education. He has more than 30 years of experience as a professional leader and communicator.

Over the past two years, Matt has served as the Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency with more than 10,000 employees across 3,000 field offices and an operating budget of over $4.5 billion.

Matt previously served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2006-2010 before being appointed as the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. His other career experiences include serving as Director of the Farm Credit Knowledge Center, teaching middle school agriscience, operating his own leadership development company and serving as President of Valley Pike Farm, Inc., his family’s farming operation.

Joseph Guthrie, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Joseph W. “Joe” Guthrie was raised on his family’s farm in Pulaski County, and received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Virginia Tech. He was named Virginia Tech’s Man of the Year as the outstanding graduating senior in 1989. He earned a master’s degree in 1991 in agricultural economics and international trade from Massey University in New Zealand, where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2007, he was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship in Agriculture to research international trade of beef from Australia and New Zealand.

Joe has ten years of experience as an elected official. In 2011, he was elected to a four-year term on the Pulaski County School Board. In 2015, was elected to a four-year term on the county’s Board of Supervisors. He was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2019 and elected Chair of the board by his peers in 2020 and 2021. 

He currently serves as a Senior Instructor at Virginia Tech and has been teaching courses in business management, finance, communications and leadership in the Agricultural Technology Program since 2007. He also owns and has operated a beef cattle and hay farm in Pulaski County. He has more than 25 years of agricultural business management experience that he has brought to the classroom, which he now brings to the administration.

Joe has served as the president of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Association, president of Pulaski County Farm Bureau and president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. He was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board and was appointed by former Governor Bob McDonnell to the Virginia Cattle Industry Board.

Joe and his wife Carol have three children and live on the family farm near Dublin.