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Kotek appoints longtime Oregon Department of Ag deputy to lead agency

Gov. Tina Kotek is bringing a former deputy director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture back to the agency to lead it.

Lisa Charpilloz Hanson was deputy director of the agency from 2005 to 2021, before leaving to lead the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. When she returns to the state agriculture department as its new director Dec. 1, following a likely vote of approval by the Senate in November, she’ll oversee more than 500 employees with a two-year budget of about $140 million. She’ll earn $17,681 monthly, according to the governor’s office. 

In a news release announcing her decision Wednesday, Kotek said she chose Charpilloz Hanson because of her experience working on difficult and controversial agricultural issues. Her first challenge will be maintaining farmer safety net programs, conservation initiatives and rural development and food and nutrition programs while the federal Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30, sits stalled in Congress.

“Oregon faces complex natural resources challenges across our state that require data-driven, resilient solutions,” Kotek said. “Lisa Charpilloz Hanson brings decades of experience working with natural resource communities to meet the needs of Oregonians across the state.”

Charpilloz Hanson has spent a total of 20 years at the agriculture department. Before becoming deputy director, she managed the agency’s commodities commission program, which oversees 22 groups of producers, farmers and public representatives who make fiduciary decisions about everything from commercial fish to grain.

She called the appointment an honor in the governor’s news release and said she was eager to get started. 

“Oregon’s diverse agricultural and food sectors have changing needs in our changing environment,” Charpilloz Hanson said. “I am excited to work with the team at the department to enhance the natural environment and the value of working lands.”

Before joining the state agency, she spent years working food processing jobs, including as a sales representative for Green Giant, the frozen and canned vegetable company. During that time, she was sent to rural Minnesota for a summer to participate in the corn harvest and work in a corn processing plant, she previously told the Capital Chronicle.

Charpilloz Hanson grew up on a farm in the rural, unincorporated community of Monitor, between Woodburn and Mt. Angel. The farm wasn’t her parents’ primary source of income – they both worked other jobs – but the family grew a variety of crops and it inspired her, she told the Capital Chronicle, to study agriculture and economics at Oregon State University. She continues to be involved with the university, where she serves today on the College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy Advisory Board.

After graduating from Oregon State in 1989, she took the job with Green Giant and worked with the Washington AgForestry Leadership Program, a non-profit based in Spokane that helps farmers and foresters develop public policy and political advocacy skills. 

During her time at Oregon’s agriculture department, she oversaw policies regulating the use of farm fertilizers, pesticides and confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

She created a controversial compliance program for agricultural water quality in the state, which was criticized by conservationists for being voluntary and lacking the regulatory authority of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. As deputy director, she also spent more than a decade working with state leaders and other agency leaders on water quality and quantity issues in the Klamath Basin.

The state’s largest farm lobby is pleased with Charpilloz Hanson’s appointment, said Greg Addington, head of the Oregon Farm Bureau and former executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.

“Lisa understands the many different facets of the agricultural industry, she understands Oregon’s politics and how to run a state agency, and most importantly, she understands Oregon,” Addington said in an email.

Alice Morrison, co-director of the nonprofit Friends of Family Farmers, representing about 1,200 small-scale family farms in Oregon, said she and her colleagues were impressed by her work with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and look forward to getting to know Charpilloz Hanson in her new role. 

“We appreciate her experience at OWEB as we look toward solutions for our continuing drought conditions and working to address the impact of climate change on Oregon agriculture,” Morrison said in an email.

Charpilloz Hanson originally applied for the job of state agriculture director in 2016, but Gov. Kate Brown ultimately appointed Alexis Taylor, who formerly led the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farming and trade program in developing countries. Oregon’s agricultural agency has been without a permanent director since Taylor left in 2022 to serve again at the USDA.

Former assistant director Lauren Henderson led the agency from Sept. 2022 to Aug. 2023. Bill Ryan, former Deputy Director of the Department of State Lands, was appointed interim director by Kotek on Sept. 5 and will hold the position until Charpilloz Hanson starts in December.

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