Seed World

USDA Announces Key Staff Appointments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the names of individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

Eric Deeble was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations

Deeble joins USDA from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, where he served as Policy Director. Prior, he served as a Senior Policy Advisor on Agriculture, Nutrition and the Arts for Senator Kristen Gillibrand. Before working on Capitol Hill, Deeble worked in the veterinary field. He became a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine in 2013, the same year he received his Veterinary Medical Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Deeble has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthology and Biology from Rutgers University.

Bernhard “Bernie” Kluger will serve as Senior Advisor for Management in the Office of the Secretary

Most recently, Kluger served as a Senior Advisor in the Small Business Administration, which he joined in March 2021. He served in the Obama Administration from 2012 to 2017 in the Office of Personnel Management. Kluger has also held roles at the Federal Executive Institute, Groundswell Community Power, Public Insights Corp, and Columbia University. He has a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from Williams College.

Yeshimebet Abebe was appointed Director of Organizational Management and Cultural Transformation, Farm Production and Conservation Business Center

Abebe returns to USDA after service during the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2017. During that time, she served in several roles, including as the Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics (REE) and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration. After working at USDA, Abebe worked as an Assistant County Attorney in Black Hawk County, Iowa, and as a District Representative for Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. She received a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law, a Master of Arts in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the UN Mandated University of Peace in Costa Rica, and a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University.

Toby Cain was appointed Chief of Staff for the Risk Management Agency

Most recently, Cain worked on the campaigns of Michael Franken in Iowa, Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, and Pete Buttigieg in Utah and Iowa. She also worked as the Sustainability Coordinator for Luther College, the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa Organic Association and the Education Coordinator for the Seed Savers Exchange, among other roles. Cain has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Grinnell College and a Master’s in Food Culture and Communication from the Università degli Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy.

Anita Adkins will serve as Chief Human Capital Officer

Adkins has served as the Acting Chief Human Capital Officer at USDA since October 2021. Prior to this role, she served as the Acting Director for the National Finance Center and as the Director for Human Resources in Rural Development. Adkins has held several leadership positions within USDA, including Senior Advisor to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Director of Human Resources Policy, and Senior Specialist for Performance Management. She has also served in leadership positions at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service; the Department of the Defense, Defense Logistics Agency; and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

George Sears will serve as Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

Sears has been the Director of the USDA Forest Service Office of Procurement and Property Services since 2011. Prior, he served at the Army Materiel Command as the Executive Director for the National Capitol Region Contracting Center and the Director of Information Technology in the E-Commerce and Commercial Contracting Center. Sears served in the US Army for 28 years. He received a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College, a Master of Business Administration from Brenau University and a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Studies from Howard University.

“USDA is made richer by the diversity and experience of its team, which we continue to build as we do critical work for the American people,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I am proud to welcome Eric, Bernie, Yeshimebet, Toby, Anita and George to the team, and look forward to working with them.”