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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and Other Key Staff Appointments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior positions in Washington, D.C.

Shefali Mehta was named Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics

Mehta comes to USDA from Open Rivers Consulting Associates where she served as the Founder and Principal of strategy and implementation. Prior to Open Rivers, Mehta was the executive director at the Soil Health Partnership, the flagship sustainability program of the National Corn Growers Association. In this role, Mehta led the transformation and expansion of farmer-led, multi-stakeholder programs to increase adoption of healthy soil practices across the U.S. Her invaluable leadership and vision helped expand the Soil Health Partnership to strengthen processes, improve structure of the organization, and boost outreach to sustain the culture of the organization. Mehta is a champion of the environment and sustainability. Her work has included identifying optimal management strategies to protect U.S. forests from invasive species by researching invasive species management strategies and focusing on overlooked areas of detection. Mehta is also a proud supporter of community engagement and encouraging women and youth to pursue careers in science and tech. She is the founder of Teaching SMART, an organization at the University of Minnesota that aims to help underserved communities and increase STEM access to K-12 students. She has received her bachelor’s degree from New York University and her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Minnesota.

Marcia Bunger was named Administrator for the Risk Management Agency

Bunger joins USDA after serving as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) for 18 years. In total, she has over 25 years of experience working for USDA in the Farm Service Agency. In her role as County Executive Director, Bunger worked closely with Pine Ridge Tribal Government leaders and personnel to administer FSA programs on the second largest land based Indian Reservation in the U.S. She served 15 years on the South Dakota Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and previously held positions at Farm Credit Services of America, including Crop Insurance Specialist and Crop Insurance Officer. Recently, she founded an agriculture consulting limited liability company providing assistance to area farmers & ranchers and to work with a local crop insurance agency selling and servicing crop insurance policies. Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre, family-owned farm. Bunger graduated cum laude and received her bachelor’s degree from Augustana College. She will be the first person who is a member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and the first woman to serve as Administrator for RMA.

Colin Finan was named Senior Advisor for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Most recently, Finan served as vice president at McCabe Message Partners, a Washington based public relations firm focused on healthcare communications. At McCabe, Finan was responsible for overseeing editorial content and consumer-facing communications for more than 50 foundations and non-profit clients. Prior to McCabe, Finan worked as a manager and senior associate on the Safe Food Project at Pew Charitable Trusts. Colin was responsible for managing all federal and state outreach regarding passage and implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Finan received his bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin.

“Under the leadership of Shefali, Marcia and Colin, USDA’s commitment to advancing science, research and education and serving the Nation’s farmers and ranchers will only be furthered,“ said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Their skills and experience are a welcomed addition to our talented staff.”


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