Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has promoted Jonathan Coppess to be administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency after Doug Caruso resigned from the post, citing philosophical differences with the Obama administration.
Coppess had been serving as deputy administrator for farm programs, a position in which he oversaw the day-to-day operation of the Farm Service Agency’s implementation of the farm programs authorized under the 2008 farm bill.
“Jonathan Coppess brings a wealth of agricultural policy experience to USDA’s leadership team,” Vilsack said in a statement issued shortly after Caruso’s resignation on July 8. “His farm background will be invaluable as President Obama and I work to assure the soundness of the safety net for American farmers and ranchers.”
Previously, Coppess worked for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson as his legislative assistant for agriculture, energy and environmental policy. Coppess, who grew up on his family’s corn and soybean farm in west-central Ohio, joined Nelson’s staff in February 2006.
In a statement issued with his resignation, Caruso said he was stepping away from the FSA administrator’s job because he and administration officials had “divergent views” on how to accomplish the goals they shared.
“Good people with the same goals and objectives can and will differ on tactics,” said Caruso, a former dairy executive and one-time state director for Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl. “Those differences made me a bad fit for the position and, given that reality, the most constructive thing I could do was step aside to make way for USDA leaders to appoint someone more in synch with their vision.”
Caruso later said he had agreed not to speak further about his differences with the administration and that he wished Coppess and the administration well.
The FSA administers and manages farm commodity, credit, conservation, disaster and loan programs through a network of federal, state and county offices. These programs are designed to help producers manage their business risks and improve the stability and strength of the domestic agricultural economy.
Vilsack also announced he was naming William J. Murphy as administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which oversees USDA’s federal crop insurance programs. Murphy had been acting administrator during the transition period.
“Bill has spent nearly three decades in the federal crop insurance community and he brings valuable hands-on expertise and executive management to the USDA’s leadership team,” Vilsack said. “His expansive program experience and knowledge of the agency’s responsibilities will be invaluable.”
Before serving as acting administrator Murphy was the RMA’s deputy administrator for insurance services; director of the regional office in Davis, Calif., overseeing crop insurance operations in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii; and director of the Western Region Compliance Office. He is a native of Pennsylvania and received a B.S. in Agronomy and Farm Management from Pennsylvania State University.
RMA helps farmers and ranchers manage their business risks with effective, market-based risk management products through a network of public and private-sector partners. RMA’s mission is to promote, support, and regulate sound risk management solutions to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America’s agricultural producers.