WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint four U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regional positions, including four Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Directors and five Rural Development (RD) State Directors.
“As USDA continues to work toward improving the lives of all Americans, we welcome these talented individuals who will each play a key role in advancing that shared mission,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Each of them will add to the experienced, dedicated and growing team at the Department.”
FSA State Executive Directors oversee Farm Service Agency operations and agricultural policy implementation in the state. Each State Executive Director works with the State Committee to administer FSA programs and County office operations, develops and maintains stakeholder relationships with customers and other agencies and governments.
RD State Directors serve as the chief executive officer of Rural Development in the states and territories and are tasked with carrying out the mission of Rural Development to the benefit of everyone in rural America. In conjunction with the guidance and support of the National Office, State Directors are responsible for promoting the mission and strategic goals of Rural Development and provide key leadership to develop and support a productive, diverse, and inclusive state workforce.
Farm Service Agency:
Doris Washington, FSA State Executive Director for Arkansas
Doris joins the Farm Service Agency with 33 years of experience managing governmental and public affairs initiatives designed to impact Environmental Protection, Education, Economic Development and Agriculture. Most recently, Washington was the Director of the National Water Management Center at the Natural Resources Conservation Service within USDA. In that role, Washington directed operations, served as an advisor, and oversaw a $2.2 million budget. Under her guidance the National Water Management Center successfully planned and implemented an analysis of Watershed Environmental projects including the Emergency & Disaster Programs. Doris is a two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas where she received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a Master of Public Administration in Public Policy.
Scott Halpin, FSA State Executive Director for Illinois
Scott is the proud owner and operator of Haplin Farms and Haplin Farms Cattle in conjunction with his parents and brother. The family farm specializes in a row-crop, corn and soybean rotation and produces hay and silage. Scott has adapted conservation management practices on his farm to allow milkweed to grow in non-crop areas to support the monarch butterfly population and improve conservation efforts for on farm pollinator habitats. In addition to his farm work, Scott has served as chairman for the Member Services and Public Relations committee within the Illinois Farm Bureau. Recently, Scott traveled internationally to learn first-hand about international trade issues as a member of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program Class of 2020. Halpin is a graduate of Joliet Junior College where he received a degree in Agriculture Production. He lives in South Wilmington with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.
Sherry Hamel, FSA State Executive Director for Maine
Sherry Hamel joins Rural Development after serving over 29 years with the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Hamel began her career with FSA in 1992 while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maine. Sherry has held a range of positions during her tenure with FSA including legal assistant, farm loan specialist, and executive officer. Most recently, Hamel was named Acting State Executive Director. Sherry is a native of eastern Maine and currently resides there with her family.
Benancio Cano, Jr, FSA State Executive Director for Texas
Benancio Cano, Jr is a native of Pharr, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. Cano, Jr began his career with the Farm Service Agency in 1994 as a County Operations Trainee. In 1995, he served as the Starr County CED and in 2002 was named the District Director for the southern area of Texas. Benancio and his wife Sonia are the proud parents of three children. They enjoy volunteering their time to organizations designed at encouraging youth to get involved in agriculture. Cano, Jr received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University Kingsville.
David Baker, RD State Director for Delaware/Maryland
David Baker comes to USDA and Rural Development after having served for more than 33 years in local government with Delaware’s Sussex County as its Finance Director and County Administrator. During his tenure, Baker became very familiar with USDA’s grantee program through projects he helped facilitate. One of those projects, the West Rehoboth Sewer project, became the second largest project funded by USDA at the time of its implementation. As State Director, Mr. Baker hopes to ensure the rural communities of Maryland and Delaware are well positioned to benefit from the programs Rural Development and USDA has to offer. Mr. Baker is a lifelong Delaware resident and graduate of the University of Delaware where he received a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Sociology. David received his Master’s in Business Administration from Wilmington College.
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, RD State Director for Illinois
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan joins USDA’s Rural Development team after spending over 20 years in the nonprofit sector. Her previous work included working with community, regional and state leaders to effect positive change for those in her community. Betsy is also a former Director at the University of Illinois-Springfield and a proud member of a farming family that still operates in Central Illinois. Dirksen Londrigan is committed to working with rural communities to bring investments to every corner of the state to support local and regional initiatives, power economic development and grow local economies. Betsy is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Brian Sheldon Murray, RD State Director for New York
Brian Murray has spent over 19 years with Rural Development prior to his appointment as State Director for New York. Brian started his career with the agency in 2002 as a Loan Specialist in the Canton, NY field office. In 2007, he became an Area Director, serving New York from the state’s Southern Tier to the Canadian border. Most recently, Brian was the Associate Enterprise Director for New York state. A lifelong New Yorker, Brian hails from rural Peterboro, NY. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Potsdam where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Economics. Brian is also active in his community. He serves in his local fire department as an interior firefighter and member of the rescue squad.
Arlisa Armstrong, RD State Director for Tennessee
Prior to her appointment as State Director, Arlisa Armstrong spent nearly three decades working in Rural Development in Western Tennessee. A native of Haywood County, Arlisa has spent time working with local leaders across Western Tennessee and understands firsthand the integral role USDA Rural Development plays in promoting growth and prosperity for rural communities. Armstrong successfully led several initiatives across a 12-county service area, effectively implementing residential, business, commercial and profit/nonprofit loan and grant making authorities for direct and guaranteed lending programs. Arlisa is passionate about her work and has made it her mission to bring opportunity to rural communities across the state. Arlisa is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University where she received her degree in Business Administration.
Kate Bolz, RD State Director for Nebraska
A sixth generation Nebraskan, Kate Bolz grew up on a family farm in Otoe County. Kate brings extensive economic and community development experience to Rural Development and USDA, having served as the Mayoral Aide for Economic Development for the City of Lincoln where she focused on workforce training and small business development programs. Bolz also spent time in the state legislature as a State Senator. She led efforts to invest in higher education and economic development as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Economic Development Task Force. In addition to her legislative work, Bolz served as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Service Providers and as an adjunct professor at Union College. Kate received her bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan.