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Karen Ross, who is chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, was named to be the next secretary of the California Department of Food & Agriculture Jan. 12 by newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ms. Ross, who must be confirmed by the state Senate, joined the USDA in November 2009. Prior to that, she was associated with several California agricultural groups over the past two decades. She was president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996 to 2009. Previously she served as a vice president of governmental relations for the Agricultural Council of California for seven years. She also served on the California State Board of Food & Agriculture from 2001 to 2009.

Agricultural leaders from California were effusive about her appointment. "She has the skills to work with so many sectors of the agriculture community," Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, told The Fresno Bee. "And we know Karen can meet this challenge."

In a note to his members, Tom Nassif, Western Growers Association's president and chief executive officer, said, "This is an outstanding choice for agriculture. We look forward to working with Karen. She is experienced and well acquainted with the needs and challenges of the specialty crop industry."

The new secretary faces some difficult challenges, as in his new budget proposal, Gov. Brown is attempting to trim $30 million over the next two years from the approximately $96 million that CDFA gets from the state's general fund each year.