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Tom Farms’ leader tapped as possible UN ambassador

LEESBURG, Ind. — An Indiana agribusiness leader has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the newest U.S. ambassador.

Trump announced Kip Tom will be accorded the rank of ambassador during his tenure of service as U.S. representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture at the Department of State.

Tom, chair of Tom Farms in Leesburg, was named last year as the U.S. representative to the three main international organizations involved in fighting world hunger and promoting sustainable development. All are headquartered in Rome, Italy.

The U.S. Senate must confirm Tom’s elevation in rank to ambassador. “I’ve just been instructed by the State Department to not do any interviews at this time,” Tom told Farm World on Sunday.

He told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette last week that he looks forward to “representing the administration and our country” if confirmed as agriculture ambassador. He said the three UN agencies he would be involved with – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program – are “working to improve lives for those in need globally.”

As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees the United Nations and its agencies, Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) recommended Tom for the appointment. Young and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) praised Tom’s service and talent in a joint news release.

"As we work to address food insecurity and malnutrition around the world, it’s important to have someone in this position who can represent our interests and values," they said. “Kip Tom is an outstanding Hoosier and a leader in the agriculture community.

“Kip’s significant experience in agriculture, business and humanitarian relief make him an excellent fit for this role.”

After confirmation by the Senate, Tom would be one of three ambassadors at the U.S. mission in Rome, sharing leadership with the U.S. ambassadors to Italy and to the Holy See of Vatican City. The ambassadorship has been vacant since the fall of 2016.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016, finishing a close second in the GOP primary in northeastern Indiana to Rep. Jim Banks. He then served on the agricultural advisory committee to Trump's presidential campaign.

The White House statement announcing Tom’s nomination said his agribusiness experience includes work in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Tom Farms gained notice years ago for its two-continent farming strategy. While farming more than 12,000 acres of land in northern Indiana, the company also began cash-rent management of about 4,000 acres in the fertile Pampas region of Argentina in 1997.

“We learned a lot of things about it, the hard way,” Kip Tom told Farm World in 2015.

What led him into farming on another continent was a desire to take advantage of the whole year for planting – it is summer in South America when it is winter in North America. He used to do consulting work in Brazil and Argentina and saw an opportunity to change the supply chain for DuPont.

About two-thirds of his company’s acres have provided seed corn and services to Monsanto, DuPont, Red Gold and others. Tom Farms annually harvests nearly 10,000 acres of seed corn in Indiana and another 2,000 in Argentina.

Tom also is on the boards of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the FFA Foundation and the National 4-H Foundation.

His promotion of Indiana agriculture and business acumen helped him earn the state’s 2012 AgriVision Award, given annually for “exemplary leadership to maximize the potential of Indiana agriculture.” He received the Agriculture Future of America Ag Leader of the Year Award in 2015.