U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the selection of senior leaders in several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies, including another Hoosier. Perdue appointed Ken Isley of Indianapolis as Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator. He also appointed Joel Baxley as Rural Housing Service (RHS) Administrator, and Illinois farmer Martin Barbre as Risk Management Agency (RMA) Administrator. In addition, Perdue announced the appointment of Tommie Williams as Minister-Counselor for Agriculture at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome.
“President Trump has made increasing prosperity in rural America a priority for his administration, and our new USDA team members will be key in advancing us toward that goal,” Secretary Perdue said. “Improving economic conditions in rural America involves providing services to farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, and it also means helping people who live in those communities. In addition, we must continually try to find new markets for the agricultural bounty they produce. Our new leaders in FAS, RHS, and RMA will help us carry out our mission.”
Ken Isley most recently served as Special Adviser for Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDuPont. For the previous five years, he served as Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary of Dow AgroSciences, and was a member of Dow AgroSciences’ Corporate Management Committee. Isley was also Associate General Counsel of Dow, with oversight of Dow’s Latin America Legal group. He spent nearly 29 years of service at Dow, beginning his career with the firm in 1989. Isley is a member of the Indiana Bar Association, Michigan Bar Association (inactive), and the American Corporate Counsel Association.
Joel Baxley comes to USDA with 23 years of real estate finance experience, including 13 years providing valuations of complex property types. He most recently served as the Consulting Services Director and the senior real estate technical consultant with RSM US LLP’s Financial Advisory Services consulting practice. Baxley holds an undergraduate degree and MBA from the University of Alabama and two post-graduate degrees from the University of Oxford.
Martin Barbre owns and operates Chestin Farms and grows 6,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum, and alfalfa, as well as specialty crops. He is a past president of the National Corn Growers Association Corn Board and a member of the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), having served on the board of directors from 1995 to 2006. Barbre served as vice president of the ICGA in 2003 and president in 2004. He graduated from Southeastern Illinois College in 1974 with a degree in Ag Business.
Tommie Williams began his career as an onion farmer in Toombs County, Georgia and later founded several successful businesses, including marketing native pine straw and growing olives on a 30-acre farm. He has worked in Italy, China, Belize, and Israel. Williams was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1998, eventually rising to the ranks of Majority Leader and President Pro Tempore before retiring in 2006. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Georgia and a Master’s Degree in Education from Georgia Southern University.