Karen Ross is secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She has extensive leadership experience in agricultural issues at the state, national, and international level. During her tenure as secretary, she has strengthened partnerships across government, academia, and the nonprofit sector. She has also initiated programs that provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in environmental stewardship through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management, and ecosystem services. Before she was appointed secretary in 2011, she was chief of staff for US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for two years. Before that, she served as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (1996‒2009) and vice president of the Agricultural Council of California (1989‒1996). Earlier in her career, she served as director of government relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as a field representative for US senator Edward Zorinsky. She has served on boards and committees of many agricultural, wine industry, and academic institutions. She holds a BA from the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program.