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Career NRCS official nominated as USDA undersecretary

USDA front of USDA building
UNDERSECRETARIES CONTINUE DIVERSITY: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack continues to fill his undersecretaries with a diverse set of nominees from across the country with naming of Dr. Holmes Wilkes, a career NRCS staffer, to serve as the undersecretary of natural resources.
Dr. Homer Wilkes instrumental in restoring health of Gulf Coast after oil spill.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack continues to fill out his potential undersecretary roster with diverse nominees with the latest nomination of Dr. Homer Wilkes for the post of undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

HomerWilkes.jpg“Dr. Homer Wilkes has dedicated his career to public service; he has put his time and talents to work with USDA for more than 41 years. His nomination reflects USDA’s commitment to putting agriculture, forestry and working lands at the center of solutions to increase climate resilience, sequester carbon, protect our air and water,” says Vilsack in a statement.  

Related: Bonnie selected to serve as USDA undersecretary

While with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Wilkes played a key role in directing engineering, natural resource and watershed projects and took a keen interest in forestry and working lands, Vilsack says. He currently serves as the director of the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Division since 2013, where he has been integral to restoring the health of the Gulf Coast ecosystem after the BP Oil Spill of 2010.

He also previously served as acting associate chief at USDA-NRCS from 2010 until 2013 and as the state conservationist in Mississippi for 16 years from 1994 to 2010.

Wilkes holds his Bachelors, Master of Business Administration and Ph.D. in urban conservation planning and higher education from Jackson State University in Jackson, MIss.

Related: USDA rural development undersecretary nominated

Vilsack adds Wilkes is a collaborative leader with a track record of working towards large-scale solutions in partnership with communities.

“This spirit and approach position Dr. Wilkes to ensure that even with different leadership within the USDA subcabinet there is connectivity between NRCS and the Forest Service; I am confident that Dr. Wilkes is the right person to ensure landscape-scale solutions are aligned with community priorities, assets and needs,” Vilsack explains.

Related: California organic farmer nominated as USDA undersecretary

Vilsack has nominated a total of three of the potential eight undersecretary positions, as well as the Deputy Undersecretary Jewel Bronoaugh who was confirmed by the full Senate in mid-May by a voice vote.

Additional nominees include current USDA deputy chief of staff and senior climate adviser Robert Bonnie for farm production and conservation undersecretary, Xochitl Torres Small to serve as the rural development undersecretary and Jenny Lester Moffitt for the position of marketing and regulatory programs undersecretary.

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