U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

Jamal Habibi has been promoted to Chief of Staff for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs

Most recently, Habibi served as Chief of Staff for Rural Housing Service since February 2021. As Chief of Staff, Habibi supported American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) implementation efforts and collaborated with the White House and various federal agencies to develop USDA commitments that boost new housing supply and provide greater protections for tenants in rural communities. Before his appointment at USDA, Habibi was a Senior Associate at the Opportunity Finance Network. During the Obama Administration, Habibi served as Outreach Director at the Department of Treasury and as a Special Assistant at USDA. Habibi holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Russellie Bongolan has been promoted to White House Liaison

Bongolan has served as Deputy White House Liaison since September 2022. Before that, she was a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics, promoting key USDA priorities, including equity, program modernization, and climate change. Before her appointment, she served as Political Director for Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and as Georgia Deputy Director of Coalitions for the Biden-Harris Campaign. Bongolan has over ten years of experience in the public and private sectors working on veterans’ health administration and education technology. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies from the University of California, Irvine and a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University.

Aliza Drewes has been appointed Senior Advisor on Energy for Rural Utilities Service

Drewes joins USDA after most recently serving as Founder and Executive Director of Rural Investment to Protect our Environment (RIPE), where she worked to advance a fair value for voluntary agricultural stewardship as part of national climate policy. She has worked at the intersection of economics and environmental policy for more than 20 years, including through corporate social responsibility consulting, state and federal policy advising, and representing family farm trade associations and nonprofits. While serving at the National Governors Association, Drewes advised gubernatorial offices and facilitated bipartisan policy recommendations on energy, water, and climate issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University and a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs.