The United States Department of Agriculture announced Nov. 18 that Matthew Russell will head Iowa’s Farm Service Agency office and Theresa Greenfield will head Iowa’s office of Rural Development.
Those are the top two USDA positions in the state.
The names are familiar to many in Iowa. Russell is a fifth-generation farmer who operates a small family farm near Lacona, but he is better known by many in Iowa for his work since 2018 as head of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, a state-wide faith-based climate action organization. Before that he spent a dozen years working at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. He had also worked for the Iowa Citizen Action Network, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and for Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Loras College and a master’s degree in Rural Sociology from Iowa State University.
Greenfield gained name recognition as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2020, when she lost to incumbent Republican Joni Ernst. She grew up on a family farm near Bricelyn, Minnesota and earned a degree in design and human development from Minnesota State University in Mankato. She then worked as an urban planner and real estate developer and was president of the Iowa division of Rottlund Homes and later as president of Colby Interests, a real estate firm in Des Moines.
Neil Hamilton, who for many years headed the Drake Agricultural Law Center, said he was pleased by both appointments.
“I think it’s an outstanding appointment for Iowa,” Hamilton said of Russell’s move. “He’s the right person with the right attributes and an understanding of the role USDA plays in agriculture.”
Jennifer Zwaggerman, who now heads the law center at Drake, agreed with Hamilton.
“The Biden administration made an excellent selection in naming Matt Russell the FSA State Executive Director for Iowa,” she said. “Matt’s experiences as a farmer, as a past FSA state committee member, and longtime service within the agricultural industry will make him a strong and successful leader in his role.”
Hamilton says it is worth noting President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited Russell’s farm during the 2020 campaign. And he says Russell’s work as a person who has tried to bring together disparate groups to discuss climate will be helpful as agriculture works to address that issue.