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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Leadership in Natural Resources and Conservation Areas

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday the appointment of Meryl Harrell as Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and the appointment of Terry Cosby as Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). They will begin their positions on Monday, May 24.

Meryl Harrell most recently served as the Executive Director of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards. She has also served as a consultant, advising non-profits, foundations, and government agencies working to conserve America’s public and private working lands. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Harrell spent eight years in the Office of Natural Resources and Environment at USDA, including serving as Chief of Staff and then Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary. Harrell previously worked on public lands issues at The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C.

Harrell received her J.D. from the Yale Law School, where she studied environmental law, and graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in geosciences and environmental studies from Princeton University. Originally from New Jersey and more recently based in Atlanta, Georgia, Harrell can often be found out on the trails in our national forests with her husband and two children.

Terry Cosby began his career with USDA in 1979 as a student trainee in Iowa. Cosby was raised on a cotton farm with his eight siblings in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. The farm, now in his family for three generations, was purchased by his great-grandfather in the late 1800s. Over Cosby’s 42 years with the agency, he has served in numerous capacities, most recently, Acting Chief of NRCS and State Conservationist for Ohio. Prior to serving as Ohio State Conservationist, he served in leadership positions in Iowa as an Area Resource Conservationist, in Missouri as an Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations and Idaho as a Deputy State Conservationist.

Cosby holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education from Alcorn State University, the first Black land grant college established in the United States, and resides in Ohio with his wife Brenda and their four children.

“The leadership and expertise of Meryl and Terry will play an integral role in USDA’s efforts to provide personnel, science, and technology that will lead to better-informed and more effective land management decisions; partnerships to address climate adaptation, conservation, and ecological resilience; and clean energy technology and infrastructure,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are fortunate to have them on our team.”