The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the people who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.
The appointments include:
Rudy Soto to Acting Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs
Soto has served as USDA’s Rural Development State Director for Idaho since January 2021. In this role, he promoted economic development, increasing access to healthcare, and improving infrastructure in Idaho’s rural communities. Before that, Soto served as a legislative staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, covering energy, environment, agriculture, and tribal affairs. Previously, he worked for Western Leaders Network, a nonprofit organization of local and tribal elected officials across the Interior West focused on protecting public lands, water, and air.
Tom O’Halleran to Senior Advisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service
Previously, O’Halleran served as the U.S. House Representative for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District from 2017 to 2023. He served on the House Committees on Agriculture from 2017-2022 and Energy and Commerce from 2019-2022. During his time in Congress, O’Halleran developed water policies for Arizona and other Western states and supported legislation that invested in education, veteran services, tribal communities, and health care. Before the U.S. House of Representatives, he served in the Arizona Senate from 2007 to 2009 as Chair of the Higher Education Committee and Vice Chairman of the Health Committee.
Cindy Axne to Senior Advisor for Rural Engagement, Delivery and Prosperity
Before joining USDA, Axne served as the U.S. House Representative for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District from 2019 to 2023. She served on the House Committees on Agriculture and Financial Services and co-chaired the Congressional Rural Caucus. During her time in Congress, Axne supported legislation that helped Iowa’s local producers and farmers and joined the Rural Broadband Task Force. Her legislation, the Sergeant Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act, was signed into law in 2021, expanding access to care for rural veterans.
Carlton Bridgeforth to Senior Advisor for Research, Education, and Economics
Before joining USDA, Bridgeforth worked for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture starting in March 2018.He advised Chairman David Scott (D-GA), House Agriculture Committee members, and staff on issues pertaining to the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee and the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee. Bridgeforth is a Partner at Bridgeforth Farms, where he worked full-time from 2012-2018 and managed commodity contract pricing, crop input costs and inventory, supply chain logistics, and business development. He was appointed to the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade.
Yvonne Hsu to Chief of Staff for Rural Housing Service
Before joining USDA, Hsu was the Chief Policy and Government Affairs Officer for the National Asian-Pacific American Women’s Forum. In this role, she was responsible for the development and implementation of the organization’s advocacy strategy to build power for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls. She has previously worked for the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama Administration, and for Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Greg Jaffe to Senior Advisor for Regulatory Affairs
Most recently, Jaffe worked for several months as Co-Director of the Breakthrough Institute’s Washington, D.C. office on food and agriculture policy. Before that, Jaffe worked for many years managing the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Biotechnology Project, which addressed the scientific issues, government policies, and corporate practices surrounding biotechnology innovations in food and agriculture. While at CSPI, Jaffe worked extensively with USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Previously, Jaffe worked for seven years as a Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
In the Office of Communications, Marissa Perry has been promoted from Press Secretary to Deputy Communications Director, and Allan Rodriguez has been promoted from Deputy Press Secretary to Press Secretary. Both Perry and Rodriguez have supported USDA’s Office of Communications since 2021.