Feb 23, 2018
Michigan ag director hired as advisor to USDA secretary

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Jamie Clover Adams is stepping down from her current job and headed for a position as an advisor in the office of the secretary of the USDA.

‭U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, center-left, shakes the hand of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
‭Director Jamie Clover Adams as he arrives Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery near Grand Rapids, Michigan for a breakfast event sponsored by Michigan Farm Bureau. Photos: Stephen Kloosterman

There was little hint of Clover Adams’ future role at the USDA during U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s Feb. 1 visit to Michigan. However, she did attend at least one of the stops during his visit — Robinette’s apple orchard near Grand Rapids — where she shook Perdue’s hand and spoke with him briefly.

“I look forward to making an impact for farmers and conservation efforts on a national scale with the USDA,” she said in a news release distributed Feb. 23 by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Clover Adams was appointed MDARD Director by Snyder in July 2012 and was the first woman to be appointed director of the state’s agricultural department. Prior to becoming director, she worked in various governmental leadership roles for nearly 25 years, including the Michigan Senate, as well as Director of the Kansas Department of Agriculture from 1999-2003.

“Jamie is a farm girl from the small town of Saranac in Ionia County,” according to her biography on Michigan.gov. Clover Adams earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University.

As MDARD director, Clover Adams created the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund, repealed 44 percent of the department’s antiquated rules, significantly improved customer service, created a performance excellence culture, and, most recently, took a key leadership role in addressing environmental stewardship in the Western Lake Erie Basin area.

She will leave her job at MDARD effective March 3, 2018.

“Jamie has served the state of Michigan with incredible commitment and leadership,” Snyder said. “She has been instrumental in the agricultural sector’s job growth and in helping to push Michigan over the $100 billion mark in economic impact from the food and agriculture industry. She will be missed, but we’re proud to have her serving farmers at the national level.”

Clover Adams said her time as MDARD director has been invaluable and that she is looking forward to taking her diverse experience in Michigan to help achieve Secretary Sonny Perdue’s goal of making USDA the most efficient and effective federal department, providing the best customer service to farmers.

“I would like to thank Governor Snyder and his team for the opportunity to lead MDARD’s amazing staff and serve the great people of Michigan,” Clover Adams said. “Through a shared vision for the food and agriculture industry in Michigan, we have been able to rebuild the department to better serve our partners, create jobs, and protect consumers throughout Michigan and all the other states and countries that enjoy Michigan-made, Michigan-grown products. I know the department is being left in very capable hands.”

Replacing Clover Adams will be Gordon Wenk, who currently serves as MDARD’s Chief Deputy Director. Wenk began his professional career with the department in 1978. He was integral in the implementation of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in partnership with the USDA and the Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality. He also led in the development of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program—a voluntary, farmer-led program now used as a national model for environmental programs. Wenk became MDARD’s Chief Deputy Director in 2008.

“We’re very fortunate to have an experienced leader like Gordon who can move seamlessly into his new role as MDARD director,” Snyder said. “He has committed his entire career to the food and agriculture community and has done so with a focus on protecting and preserving our state’s incredible natural resources. It’s reassuring to know that the successful progress and goals of MDARD will continue.”

“I look forward to continuing the positive momentum and critical projects that have been put into motion by Jamie,” Wenk said.


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