By TIM ALEXANDER
YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO — A northeast Ohio man has been promoted to Chief of Staff for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Jimmy Dahman had served as the special assistant to the under-secretary of USDA Rural Development since 2021. Prior to joining USDA, Dahman spent ten years organizing for causes and candidates across the country, including a stint as the coordinated campaign director for the Biden-Harris campaign in Ohio. In 2017, he founded and operated a civic engagement non-profit organization that helped constituents engage with their elected representatives. Dahman holds a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in northeast Ohio.
He will succeed Steffanie Bezruki of Illinois, who was promoted to the position of chief of staff for the Under Secretary of Rural Development. The senior staff transitions were announced in a December USDA news release.
In an interview with Farm World, Dahman said the overall focus of the USDA-RBCS is to connect rural business owners with new markets and rural communities with infrastructure improvement opportunities, while supporting rural Americans in building brighter futures.
“We help rural economies prepare for the future, offering a suite of programs including grants and loans tailored specifically to the needs of people in rural America.”
“As chief of staff I’ll wear a lot of different hats while supporting our RBCS administrator, the staff and our partners as we carry out the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration and the USDA. I’ll be helping to ensure that people have the resources they need to start or expand businesses, develop job skills and create wealth.”
Dahman will also work with lenders and cooperatives to ensure that all rural Americans can benefit from the resources of the department, particularly those residents in underserved communities. He feels his pre-USDA background in civic engagement and organizing will serve him well in his new role within the Biden-Harris administration.
“I’ve had the privilege of managing and operating with large teams and organizations, and from that I’ve gained a lot of the skills I’m going to take to this job. I started in USDA a year ago in July, so I’ve really got a grasp on some of the things that will serve me well in this new position,” Dahman said.
Many of the most important issues facing rural communities and businesses are being addressed by the Biden-Harris administration, Dahman noted. These issues include providing rural communities with easier access to infrastructure funding, while supporting them on the front lines of climate change by building disaster resilience and encouraging climate-smart investments, he said.
“There are a lot of priorities that we have, across a large suite of programs. I think that some of our new investments, whether in food systems work through the American Rescue Plan or some of our investments through the Inflation Reduction Act, including record investments into our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), are some of the big priorities as we look to leverage these historic investments in the communities they are meant to reach,” Dahman said, addin that the REAP will help support renewable energy systems for rural small businesses and agricultural producers.
“This program can help agricultural producers to bring down their energy costs. A hog farmer put solar panels on his facility (through the program) and it brought down their bill from about $3,000 per month to about $25 per month, or whatever it cost for the meter reader to come out. Making sure that folks in rural communities across America know about these opportunities and investment and are able to take advantage of them will be one of my top goals in this role.”
Dahman spoke to Farm World from his home in northeast Ohio, located around 45 minutes from his college alma mater, Kent State University. Most of his family, including his parents and grandparents, still reside in the area.
“It’s nice to be home with them for the holidays,” he said, adding that service to rural communities runs in his family. “My sister is a teacher in a rural community, and my brother works for a rural county board on developmental disabilities, so they’re serving rural communities as well.”
In closing, Dahman said he was looking forward to getting underway in his new role as chief of staff for USDA-RBCS following the holidays. “We’ve got a great team here at Rural Development and USDA, and I’m very excited to get to work. There’s lots to do,” he said.