CDFA Executive Staff Biographies

Jenny Lester Moffitt, Undersecretary

Jenny Lester Moffitt is a 5th generation California farmer and Undersecretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, where she was Deputy Secretary from January 2015 – February 2018. Appointed to these positions by Governor Jerry Brown, Jenny works to engage stakeholders on issues that affect ranchers and farmers, including climate change, land use, water policy, and food security. Prior to joining CDFA, Jenny spent 10 years as Managing Director at Dixon Ridge Farms, her family’s organic walnut farm and processing operation. Growing up on the farm she would later help manage, Jenny learned firsthand the importance of taking care of the land and the people that farm it – and the value in fostering economic growth and well-being. As a farmer and policymaker, Jenny understands the critically important role agriculture plays in sustaining our environment, rural communities and economy.

Kevin Masuhara, Deputy Secretary Administration and Finance

Kevin Masuhara was appointed as Deputy Secretary of Administration and Finance for CDFA in 2014 and has been with the Department since 2006. Past roles at CDFA have included Director of Marketing Services, Interim Director of Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services, County/State Liaison and Program Supervisor over Standardization and Certified Farmers Markets. He has also held various managerial and technical analytical positions at the Department of Justice, CalPERS and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Prior to entering state service, Kevin was the managing general partner in a family farming operation that raised fresh market vegetable crops as well as vine and other seed crops. He also was an area manager for a tomato processing cooperative.

Rachael O’Brien, Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs

Rachael O’Brien was appointed Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs of the California Department of Food and Agriculture by Governor Brown in June 2018. Rachael was previously appointed as Assistant Secretary in December 2017. Prior to joining CDFA, Rachael served as Manager of Government Affairs at the Agricultural Council of California, representing approximately 15,000 farmers across the state, ranging from small, farmer-owned businesses, to some of the world’s best-known brands. Rachael also served as a Legislative Advocate for Gonzalez, Quintana & Hunter, LLC, focusing on energy, water, climate and air quality policy. Rachael also worked as an Associate for EcoConsult, an environmental consulting firm, and held an internship position with then-Assemblymember Skinner’s Capitol office. Rachael is a graduate of California State University, Monterey Bay.

Dr. Amrith Gunasekara, Science Advisor to the Secretary

Dr. Gunasekara is Science Advisor to Secretary Ross at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He works on agricultural issues as they relate to the environment and seeks to find proactive, creative, flexible and practical solutions. His focus areas include plant nutrient management, climate change and environmental stewardship. He is the CDFA liaison to the Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel which is looking at highlighting the many benefits afforded by agriculture beyond food, fiber, and economic benefits. Dr. Gunasekara received his undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and completed his PhD from the University of California, Davis, in Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry. He has been in his CDFA position since August 2011.

Annette M. Jones, D.V.M., State Veterinarian & Director – Animal Health and Food Safety Services

Dr. Jones graduated with honors from U.C. Davis with a degree in Economics and worked as a business manager for a defense contractor and an engineering firm for the first eight years of her career, after which she returned to U.C. Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and again graduated at the top of her class. After practicing as a private veterinarian for three years, she joined the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2001. She participated in California’s foot and mouth disease prevention and preparedness efforts in 2001, avian influenza control and eradication in 2002, and Exotic Newcastle disease eradication in 2002 and 2003. She consistently demonstrated an ability to work cooperatively with other government agencies, the public, and industry as seen during emergency animal disease planning efforts at the local, State, and Federal level. Dr. Jones showed her willingness to accept challenge during the response to Exotic Newcastle disease in Southern California, where she was the Incident Commander and Area Commander for the State. The response involved multiple local, State, and Federal agencies with up to 1,500 people on the ground at one time. On July 1, 2004, Dr. Jones was appointed Director of the Animal Health and Food Safety Services. In this capacity, she oversees an annual budget of $45.5 million and 222 employees engaged in programs for animal health, milk and dairy food safety, meat and poultry inspection, and livestock identification. She also works closely with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, which is operated by U.C. Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, under a contract with her Division. In this capacity, she has implemented organizational changes to meet the demands of shrinking budgets yet remain effective in the most critical mission areas; was part of the management team for several disease outbreaks and food and feed contamination events; provided radio and television interviews in support of farmers and ranchers and the work done to maintain a vibrant and safe food supply; collaborated with federal, state and local agencies; and provided testimony at several legislative sessions. In September of 2010, besides continuing to perform as Director, Dr. Jones was appointed State Veterinarian, the position ultimately responsible for the State’s veterinary authority on animal health and food safety related to livestock and poultry.