The National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC), the hemp industry’s only Washington, D.C.-based trade association, has named Patrick Atagi as its new president and CEO, the NIHC board of directors announced.
Atagi currently serves on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) on Cotton, Tobacco, Hemp and Peanuts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which advises not only the secretary of agriculture but also the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on technical barriers to trade. Atagi is one of two members of the NIHC to serve on a USDA ATAC.
Atagi led the board of directors in an initiative to successfully enroll NIHC as an official government partner through the USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP), a public-private partnership in which the USDA matches industry funds to promote U.S. commodities in the global economy. The NIHC was successfully awarded $200,000 from the USDA MAP initiative.
“I’m thankful for our board of directors and the members of NIHC who have placed their trust in me to be a voice that leads our industry,” Atagi said. “We will continue to do the necessary work to promote the brand of hemp, ensure consumer safety and usher the U.S. hemp industry into the global marketplace.”
Atagi is prepared for the challenge. He has served in multiple staff roles at the USDA and U.S. Senate, as well as having private sector international and domestic experience. Atagi served as a presidential political appointee at USDA; confidential assistant to the undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs, deputy director of intergovernmental affairs and director of Alaska and Native American Programs.
He began his career in Washington working on agricultural issues for then U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, D-Ore.), who was at the time chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Atagi also remains president of DA Farms in Nyssa, Oregon.
“The economic promise of hemp has the capacity to change the world,” says Atagi. “Its utility is near limitless and it can be found in everything from food to clothes, building materials and manufacturing. Our goal at NIHC has always been, and will remain: to create a hemp economy that works for everyone.”
Under Atagi’s leadership, NIHC has had several accomplishments, which have raised the profile of industrial hemp.
In 2020, NIHC’s input was instrumental in Congress extending the 2014 Hemp Pilot Program. This year, NIHC took the lead in drafting language for Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s legislation to change the statutory definition of hemp to 1.0% delta-9 THC. NIHC has also worked with Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon), Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Paul to write legislation giving FDA the authority to make CBD not just a dietary supplement; but also an ingredient in food.
The NIHC continues to grow with new staff and leadership. Members, industry partners, hemp associations and international partners will meet with Atagi during the NIHC’s 2021 Hemp Business Summit, Nov. 14-16, in Washington.
Prior to this role, Atagi was the vice president of advocacy and external affairs at the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), subsequently becoming the executive director of the NWPCA Political Action Committee (PAC). Other leadership roles in Washington include director at the American Chemistry Council, secretariat for the World Chlorine Council, and director at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).
He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned an MBA from the University of Maryland, Global Campus. He lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife Tracy.