Alonzo leaves AMS, Starmer named acting administrator |

Alonzo leaves AMS, Starmer named acting administrator

Anne Alonzo, administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, left the position last week, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has named Elanor Starmer, one of his senior advisers, as the acting administrator.

The AMS, a division of the Marketing and Regulatory mission area of USDA, is responsible for developing quality grade standards for agricultural commodities, administering marketing and regulatory programs, marketing agreements and orders, and making food purchases for USDA food assistance programs.

Starmer is expected to be formally named to the post eventually, a source close to USDA told The Hagstrom Report.

Vilsack told The Hagstrom Report today in Iowa that he would miss Alonzo. He praised her work on local and regional foods, and said that work would continue under her replacement.

Alonzo, who is from Chicago, did not announce future plans, but reflected on her tenure in an edition of the AMS newsletter published last week.

Starmer came to USDA to work for then-Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in 2011.

A message to AMS employees today noted that Starmer has coordinated the department’s work on local and regional food systems, including running the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

She also acted as liaison to the Food and Drug Administration on the Food Safety Modernization Act and developed department-wide strategy to support industry on FSMA implementation, and handled a variety of other issues, including specialty crops and value-added agriculture.

Starmer’s focus has been the creation of new market opportunities for farmers, ranchers and food business of all sizes, the memo said.

Earlier, Starmer was the western region director for Food and Water Watch and a policy and communication consultant for organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council. She was also a research assistant at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University and a policy associate and media officer at the Latin America Working Group in Washington.

Starmer holds a bachelor of arts degree in women’s studies from Brown University and dual master’s degrees from Tufts, a master of science degree from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

She is from a rural farming community of 700 in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Her husband is Kumar Chandran, chief of staff for Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concanon.

–The Hagstrom Report