The Obama Administration has been busy making official appointments to head Farm Service Agency jobs in many states this past two weeks. One of those was Indiana, where Julia Wickard was just named as the new state director for FSA.
She takes over for Don Hunton, an FSA state staff member, who served as interim director. Kendall Culp served as director until the new administration took over in January. The head FSA position in each state is a political appointment. Senator Bayh, the ranking Democrat, and only Democrat, U.s. senator from Indiana, officially made the recommendation that Wickard be named as the new director.
Wickard was the executive leader of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association. Her exact title was Executive Vice President. She also served the Indiana Beef Council in the same capacity. She was the leader behind the scene in those roles since 2005, and previously served at other positions in agriculture, normally at the state level.
Wickard and her family raise cattle in Hancock County,. She's a Purdue University graduate, holding degrees in communications and political science. She also completed the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program in 1998. It's a springboard for many Hoosier ag leaders who want to groom themselves for leadership roles in the future.
As state director of FSA, Wickard will be responsible for 79 local offices located throughout the state. Past executive directors include such notable names as Don Villwock, now head of Indiana Farm Bureau, Kent Yeager, also with Indiana Farm Bureau at the state level, and John Nidlinger, an Adaas County farmer. Steve Brown, an FSA employee now working at the field level, also served a stint a long stint as interim director after Nidlinger returned to the farm.
Her duties will include making sure that FSA continues to operate efficiently and within budget in Indiana. Primary jobs of FSA remain the same- certifying farmers for various programs at the county level, and doling out subsidies when appropriate. Members of her staff are also actively involved in seeing that farmers receive payment for various activities under a host of conservation-related programs.
Since the announcement was just made last week, there is no word yet from the Indiana Beef Cattle Association as to what type of search will be launched to find a successor for Wickard. In the meantime, the association will proceed with business as usual. One of its big activities is manning the Ribeye booth for beef promotion at the Indiana State Fair. The fair opens August 7 and runs through August 23 this year. The main Ribeye tent is located just outside the cattle barn, on the north end, on the south side of the fairgrounds.