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Portrait of Karen  Ross

Karen Ross


California Department of Food and Agriculture

Karen Ross is secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA); initially appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2011, she was re-appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019. During her CDFA tenure, the department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture, to provide the best service to farmers, ranchers, and consumers, and to foster an agricultural industry that embraces its role as a global leader. Before joining CDFA, she was chief of staff for US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and prior to that appointment, she served as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and as vice-president of the Agricultural Council of California. She has strengthened partnerships across government, academia, and the nonprofit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management, and ecosystem services; and she has worked to provide greater access to farm-fresh foods at school cafeterias through CDFA’s Farm to Fork Program. In addition to her membership on the Public Policy Institute of California’s Statewide Leadership Council, she has served on numerous boards and committees in California agriculture and with various academic institutions. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program.