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USDA Announces Additional Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Directors

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2022 – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint nine U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regional positions, including three Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Directors and six Rural Development (RD) State Directors.

“Our state offices are on the frontlines of providing critical USDA programs and services,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I am thrilled to welcome these nine talented and dedicated public servants to the team as we continue to build back better for the American people.

FSA State Executive Directors oversee Farm Service Agency operations and agricultural policy implementation in the state. Each State Executive Director works with the State Committee to administer FSA programs and County office operations, develops and maintains stakeholder relationships with customers and other agencies and governments.

RD State Directors serve as the chief executive officer of Rural Development in the states and territories and are tasked with carrying out the mission of Rural Development to the benefit of everyone in rural America. In conjunction with the guidance and support of the National Office, State Directors are responsible for promoting the mission and strategic goals of Rural Development and provide key leadership to develop and support a productive, diverse, and inclusive state workforce.

Farm Service Agency:

Julia Wickard has been appointed FSA State Executive Director for Indiana

Julia Wickard and her family own and operate Wickard Livestock, a multi-generational livestock and row-crop farm near Greenfield, Indiana. She returns to her role as FSA State Executive Director after being appointed by President Obama and serving from 2009 to 2017. Following her appointment, Wickard served as the Government Affairs Director and Agricultural Liaison at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). She was later appointed Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Program Support at IDEM while also maintaining her Agricultural Liaison role. Wickard has also worked as the Executive Vice President of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Chief Operating and Marketing Officer and Environmental and Natural Resources Director at the Indiana Farm Bureau, and Environmental and Natural Resources Director in the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Jeffrey Holmes has been appointed FSA State Executive Director for New Hampshire

Jeffrey Holmes is a fifth-generation farmer from Langdon, New Hampshire. In the family since 1873, the land was home to registered jersey cattle for over 80 years and currently produces hay, corn, maple, timber, and firewood. His public service includes 22 years on the NH Farm Bureau Board of Directors, on which he served as president for eight years. Holmes served 15 years as the Langdon town moderator. Additionally, he has served as an FSA county committee member and County Executive Director in the Cheshire-Sullivan County office.

Steve Dick was appointed FSA State Executive Director for South Dakota

A native of southeastern South Dakota, Steve Dick operates a family farm in McCook County, where he feeds cattle and grows corn and soybeans. He has served as the Executive Director of Ag United for South Dakota since January 2005. Before joining Ag United, Dick served on Senator Tom Daschle’s staff for ten years in several positions, one of which was Agriculture Outreach Coordinator. He has served on the boards for East Dakota Water Development District, South Dakota Ag Foundation, East Dakota Education Foundation, Sioux Valley Energy Operation Round-Up, and the West Central School District. Dick is a graduate of the University of South Dakota.

Rural Development:

Deidre Deculus Robert has been appointed Rural Development State Director for Louisiana

A lifelong Louisianan, Deidre Deculus Robert resides on her family’s ranch in Glynn, Louisiana. Most recently, she served as the executive counsel for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Robert previously worked as general counsel of the Southern University and A&M College System, the only HBCU college system in the country, and as an assistant attorney general with the Louisiana Department of Justice. Her legal career began as an assistant city prosecutor in the Parish Attorney’s Office for the City of Baton Rouge-Parish of East Baton Rouge. During her 11 years with the City-Parish, she rose through the ranks to become the first female African American section chief.

Lucas Ingvoldstad has been appointed Rural Development State Director for Nevada

Prior to joining USDA, Lucas Ingvoldstad was the Senior Director of Government and External Affairs for Eolus North America, a utility-scale renewable energy developer focusing on solar, wind, and battery storage projects throughout the Mountain West. Previously, he served seven years as a senior advisor to U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid, where he focused on energy, agriculture, and natural resource issues. Ingvoldstad attended the University of Nevada, Reno, where he earned his Master of Science degree in Land Use Planning Policy in 2011 and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2005.

Erin Oban has been appointed Rural Development State Director for North Dakota

A lifelong North Dakotan, Erin Oban was raised on a farm family in Ray before attending the University of Mary in Bismarck, where she received a bachelor's degree in Mathematics Education. Oban’s professional career began as a middle school math and technology teacher. In 2014, she was elected to the North Dakota State Senate and served as Assistant Senate Minority Leader after her reelection in 2018. Throughout Oban’s two terms in the legislature, she served on the Senate Education, Energy and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Government and Veterans Affairs, and Political Subdivisions committees. Oban also served on the Legislative Management Committee and as chairwoman of the Interim Education Policy Committees. She most recently worked as the Director of Community Engagement with the Central Regional Education Association.

Nikki Gronli has been appointed Rural Development State Director for South Dakota

Nikki Gronli most recently worked as a Marketing Specialist at SDN Communications where she oversaw the brand, traditional marketing, and educational events and advocated for broadband expansion in rural South Dakota. Gronli currently holds several board and committee positions, including with the Minnehaha County Housing Redevelopment Committee, Siouxland Heritage Museum Board, and LEAD South Dakota. She served on Dakota State University’s Cybersecurity Industry Advisory Board and as president of the Department of Defense STARBASE program. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota and began her career in advertising and marketing in Minneapolis before returning to South Dakota in 2001.

Perry Hickman has been appointed Rural Development State Director for Virginia

Perry Hickman grew up in Tappahannock, Virginia, where he still resides. He started at USDA Rural Development in April 2008 and has served in several roles, including as the Virginia Community Programs Director, where he managed a $750 million portfolio. Hickman also worked as a Senior Loan Specialist where he planned Public, Private, Partnership (P3) events with commercial lenders and other private sector partners. A 1985 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Management with a concentration in Real Estate and Urban Land Development.

Ryan Thorn has been appointed Rural Development State Director for West Virginia

Prior to joining USDA, Ryan Thorn served more than five years as Economic Development Manager for the Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III. In this role, he worked with local, state, and federal stakeholders to attract new and expand existing businesses, strengthen public infrastructure, develop a skilled and ready workforce, and create economically diverse and resilient communities across the state. Thorn is a board member of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Foundation. He holds a master’s degree from West Virginia University and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College.