Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director General, UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Gayle E. Smith, President and CEO, ONE Campaign
Ambassador Darci Vetter, Vice Chair, Agriculture, Food and Trade, Edelman
Caitlin Welsh, Director, Global Food Security Program, CSIS
Beth Bechdol is Deputy Director-General at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In this role, she continues her service to food and agriculture – now on a global scale. Ms Bechdol is responsible for overseeing FAO’s technical cooperation and programme support, including resource mobilization, partnerships, South-South and Triangular Cooperation, as well as leading programmes in the area of plant protection and production.
Before joining FAO, Ms Bechdol was President and CEO of AgriNovus Indiana, the Midwestern state’s economic development initiative focused on advancing the agbioscience sector and developing 21st century talent. Prior to her leadership of AgriNovus, Ms Bechdol was Director of agribusiness strategies at Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller LLP where she helped build the firm’s dedicated legal practice to food and agribusiness clients. She also was the former Deputy Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
Ms Bechdol’s dedication to public service in agriculture and her extensive trade and farm policy experience started in Washington, D.C. where she served in key roles as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and as Economist on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
She began her career in the Washington office of Informa Economics. As the first female Vice President in the firm, she assisted clients in understanding critical food and agriculture issues such as global trade negotiations, federal farm policy, technology advancements, farm structure, risk management tools, among other major trends. She also provided market information expertise to several international development projects in Egypt, the Republic of North Macedonia and Ukraine.
Ms Bechdol excels at building unconventional alliances and connecting people. She has had significant roles on boards and commissions, including the National FFA Board of Trustees, the Purdue Research Foundation and the Farm Foundation Round Table.
Ms Bechdol was raised on a multi-generation family grain farm in rural Indiana. She received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in international law and international affairs, and completed her master’s degree at Purdue University in agricultural economics.
Gayle E. Smith is the President and CEO of the ONE Campaign. She served as a top advisor on development issues for two American presidents and is one of the world’s leading experts on global development. She brings an unparalleled expertise on development and democracy issues, and an extraordinary network of relationships across the African continent and around the world.
In her most recent role, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Smith led a staff of more than 10,000 people working to end extreme poverty, foster sustained and inclusive economic growth, and promote resilient, democratic societies all over the world. Smith had previously served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for development and democracy at the National Security Council, and as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council. Before her work on the NSC Smith founded the sustainable security program at the Center for American Progress, and co-founded the ENOUGH project and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. She also worked as a journalist and with NGOs in Africa for more than 20 years.
Smith is originally from Bexley, Ohio and earned a B.A. from the University of Colorado.
Caitlin Welsh is the director of the Global Food Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she provides insights and policy solutions to global food security challenges. She brings over a decade of U.S. government experience to this role. She served most recently in the National Security Council and National Economic Council as director of global economic engagement, where she coordinated U.S. policy in the G7 and G20 across multiple summits. Prior to the White House, Ms. Welsh spent over seven years in the Department of State’s Office of Global Food Security, including as acting director, offering guidance to the secretary of state on global food security and its relationship to urbanization, climate change, and conflict. As a presidential management fellow, Ms. Welsh oversaw a portfolio of agriculture-related grants at the U.S. African Development Foundation. Ms. Welsh also lived and worked in Morocco’s breadbasket region as a Peace Corps volunteer, witnessing the complex causes and effects of food insecurity and working to improve lives through education.
Ms. Welsh received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and M.P.A. from Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs. She hails from Erie, Pennsylvania and speaks Arabic and French.
Ambassador Darci Vetter, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the US Trade Representative (USTR) and Deputy Under Secretary at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), coordinates Edelman’s North American Food and Beverage practice, and works closely with clients throughout the U.S. Agriculture, Food and Beverage Sectors.
Darci works closely with Edelman’s clients to develop business and communication strategies to help companies meet changing consumer expectations while complying with a rapidly changing policy landscape. Her work has helped clients navigate international trade tensions and address transparency and traceability issues to implement and verify sustainability and animal welfare initiatives.
Darci joined Edelman in 2018, and brings deep international trade, agriculture and food policy experience to her work following a 17-year career in the federal government. After leaving government in early 2017, Darci was the Diplomat in Residence at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, where she helped launch the Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance.
While serving as President Obama’s Chief Agricultural Trade Negotiator, she led the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agricultural package, as well as bilateral deals with Japan, China, Brazil and other countries.
Previously, she oversaw the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and led U.S. delegations to re-open international markets to US beef and advance international standards for food safety and animal health. Darci also served as an International Trade Advisor on the Senate Finance Committee.
Darci serves on the board of directors of the Neogen Corporation, the Farm Foundation, and the Washington International Trade Association. She is also a Member of the CME Group Agricultural Markets Advisory Council, and the Advisory Board of the Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance. She grew up in Nebraska on her family’s farm and lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two children.