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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments and Senior Staff

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior positions in Washington, D.C.

Karama Neal, PhD was named Administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Most recently, Neal served as president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a nonprofit community development loan fund and financial development organization promoting economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. Before joining Southern, she had a career in the biosciences and worked for a period in biofuels informatics with a focus on feedstocks and balancing food and fuel priorities. In 2013, inspired by her family’s ownership of rural heirs property in Arkansas, she started a statewide grassroots organization promoting passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act which was passed in 2015. Neal holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College, a doctorate in genetics from Emory University and a master’s in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago.

Mike Schmidt was named Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary. Previously, Schmidt served as Senior Advisor for USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area since January 20, 2021. Senior Professional Staff for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry under ranking member Senator Debbie Stabenow. Schmidt held several positions at USDA in the Obama Administration, including Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs in the Farm Service Agency. At USDA, Schmidt was also responsible for implementation of 2014 Farm Bill programs related to commodities, dairy, conservation, and risk protection. Schmidt is a graduate of Virginia Tech and has a master’s degree from the University College London.

Lisa Ramirez, EdD was named Director of the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. She most recently served as the Chief Innovative Officer for the Lubbock Independent School District in Lubbock, Texas. Previously, she held the roles of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs and Director of the Office of Migrant Education and the Director for the Office of School Support and Rural Programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Ramirez served in the U.S. Army Reserves and holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a Doctor of Education degree from Texas Tech University.

Doug McKalip was named Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary. Most recently, McKalip was Senior Advisor in Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). He previously served as Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council and held several positions at USDA, including Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director of Legislative and Public Affairs in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). McKalip received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and his master’s in public policy from American University. He is a native of rural, Northwest Pennsylvania.

“Karama, Mike, Lisa and Doug will play an integral role in our mission to create a department that represents and serves all Americans, addresses the climate crisis, builds new and fair markets for American producers, and rebuilds rural America” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.


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