fulfilling hemp’s potential

We know that hemp production is a sound business proposition. Even more importantly, we know the role it can - and must - play in repairing the planet

a product of its times

As we set out Hemp is one of those materials that are both versatile and sustainable.  And it is yet to be used to its full potential, be that in clothing, construction, in fuels or manufacturing. 

The mission of the National Industrial Hemp Council of America is simple – to right this wrong by educating businesses, brands and consumers on the benefits of hemp, creating the demand needed to drive markets, and in doing this to support our members. 

a market driven by sustainability

The hemp market is currently growing at an annual rate of about 15 percent. This is good, but not good enough. We must accelerate this growth as new uses for hemp are pioneered, more governments embrace the industry and consumers continue to invest in more sustainable products.  

NIHC’s international market development focuses on Europe and Asia. Target countries include Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy and the UK, and China, Japan and South Korea.  

supporting our members

The NIHC helps new market entrants and established producers. We do this by sharing our resources, research and knowledge and enabling our members to network. We campaign for and advise upon a legislative framework across the industry, and we educate consumers on the applications and advantages of industrial hemp. 

at work lobbying

NIHC brings together an expert team of leaders from across sectors and disciplines. Together they work tirelessly to promote the production and use of hemp both in North America and worldwide. This is not just a good thing to do, it is essential.

board of directors

Patrick Atagi President and CEO

As President and CEO of the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC), Atagi provides high-quality networking and resources for NIHC staff and its members, from the farm to consumer. Atagi leads an organization composed of leading international, federal, state, private industry, and government professionals throughout the United States and international hemp industry.


Under Atagi’s leadership, NIHC’s goals are to further market development, assist members in entering the industry, and educate the consumer on industrial hemp and its applications. Educating consumers is of paramount importance for NIHC.

Atagi has served in executive positions in both the public and private sector. He previously served the public as both the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and as the Confidential Assistant to the Under Secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. In the private sector, Atagi previously worked for the US Apple Association, UnitedFresh, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), been the Secretariat for the World Chlorine Council, and the American Chemistry Council.

He remains President and CEO of his family’s farming operation DA Farms in Nyssa, Oregon. 

Atagi is a strong business development professional and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and University of Maryland MBA program.

Thomas Sloan Secretary and Treasurer

Thomas is an accomplished financial professional from Chicago, Illinois with 30+ years of international and domestic professional experience. Currently, he is Vice President, Corporate Controller of CEVA Logistics, N.A., in addition to providing financial consultancy services to clients through his company, TJS Consulting Services LLC. 


Prior to this, he held positions of Vice President Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer with two publicly traded companies and served 13 years in financial leadership positions in Europe, Middle East, West Africa, and South America in the energy and professional services industries. His leadership in financial system implementation projects and related process enhancement and cost rationalization initiatives has netted savings in excess $11M per annum.

When Thomas is not working, he travels extensively and has visited approximately 40 countries, including living in five. He volunteers for a number of charitable organizations and most recently served a co-chair of the Ensemble Theater of Houston’s Founder’s Circle, which raised $250K.

Thomas is a graduate of the United Way of Greater Houston’s Project Blueprint, which prepares participants for board leadership positions of nonprofit companies. He also completed the Board Leadership Forum of Deloitte’s Center for Board Effectiveness in May 2018. Thomas is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and is a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). He holds an MBA in Management from the University of Texas, a BBA in Accountancy from the University of Notre Dame and is a Licensed Certified Public Accountant in the State of Illinois.

Bill Hawks

Hawks is an American politician, former civil servant, agricultural businessman, and founder and CEO of AgWorks Solutions, LLC. He graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics. He procured a Master of Science in the same field from the same university. Hawks started farming after finishing graduate school by owning and operating a dairy in DeSoto County in far northwestern Mississippi. He then began to lease land from neighbors to get started in a row crop operation, often doing custom work for others. Over the years, this evolved into a multi-faceted operation.


Hawks was the managing partner of Hawks Farming, which farmed approximately 12,000 acres of land in three counties in northern Mississippi. This operation consisted of soybeans, double-cropped winter wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle. In the late 1980s, Hawks was a part owner in a professional farm management company, Sunbelt Land and Timber Company, Incorporated.

In December 1994, Hawks was elected to the Mississippi State Senate, representing DeSoto County. During his five years as a state senator, he was a leader on the committees with jurisdiction over agriculture and the environment. In 1999, he was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.

On May 24, 2001, during the George W. Bush administration, Hawks was sworn in as the Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs by United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman. Hawks served until 2005.

Throughout his career, he has been active in many agricultural boards and committees such as American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, and many state and local organizations.

Lowell Randel

Randel served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While at USDA, Lowell also held the position of Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Research, Education and Economics Mission Area of USDA. Lowell founded The Randel Group and serves as legal representative for several associations. Randel also represents the Global Cold Chain Alliance as their Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs.


In addition to his public service, Lowell has extensive government affairs experience in the private sector. Prior to joining USDA, Lowell was Senior Associate for Meyers and Associates, a Washington based government relations firm. He also held the position of Assistant Legislative Director for AESOP Enterprises, an agriculture focused government relations firm in Washington. Lowell also has experience working in state government. He held the position of Coordinator of Trade and Federal Issues for the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Lowell holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and master’s degree in agricultural development, both from Texas A&M University. He also holds a law degree from George Mason University School of Law.

Specialties: Government relations, lobbying, agriculture, appropriations, regulations

Patricia Sheikh

Patricia R. Sheikh is an international trade and development expert. Prior to joining Roots of Peace in May 2018 as Senior Vice President, Programs, she served as the Director of Agribusiness, Trade and Health for the Corporate Council on Africa. In this role, she was responsible for promoting trade and investment in these sectors between the United States and the nations of Africa for member CCA companies. Ms. Sheikh also served as Deputy Administrator, Office of Capacity Building and Development, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA. 


As Deputy Administrator, Ms. Sheikh was in charge of the overall leadership of USDA’s global trade and development objectives and programs and oversaw all programming regarding the implementation of food assistance, trade capacity building, and agricultural development programs. Through her leadership, Ms. Sheikh helped developing countries around the world improve their agricultural systems thereby improving their standard of living and their capacity to engage in two-way trade. Prior to her work as Deputy Administrator of the Office of Capacity Building and Development, Ms. Sheikh was the Deputy Administrator of International Trade Policy, the World Cotton Coordinator, and a Trade Analyst at the Office of Foreign Economic Policy.

Ms. Sheikh holds a B.A. in History and Political Science with a minor in Economics from Notre Dame of Maryland University and an M.A. in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. She is a former member of the General Administration Board at the USDA Graduate School, served as an Advisory Board Member for the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Tuskegee University, The German Marshall Fund and Leadership Africa. Ms. Sheikh joined the Roots of Peace Board of Directors in October 2014. She currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Ms. Sheikh has numerous awards acknowledging her accomplishments, including the Presidential Meritorious Executive Award and the Presidential Rank Award.

Walt Smith

Walt Smith is the Founder and President of The Mallard Group and is a Hays County Commissioner in Texas. Smith previously served as Congressional Liaison at the US Department of Agriculture in the Office of the Secretary – Office of Congressional Relations. Smith was the primary liaison for farm and conservation programs, trade, agricultural risk management, and research.


Smith has nearly two decades of experience working in both the government and government-relations field representing various clients before Congress, the administration, and state and local governments. He has worked with major land grant universities, national scientific societies, agricultural policy professionals, national trade associations, a top 50 law firm, chambers of commerce, municipalities and private businesses. Walt Smith has the designation as the number 17 “Rising Star” on the 2013 by Capitol Insider.

Prior to leaving Washington, Mr. Smith worked on Capitol Hill for members of the Texas Delegation, Appropriations and Agriculture Committee Members from Texas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and served as a liaison between USDA and other federal water agencies and departments.

Walt Smith has his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Science Development and Masters of Agriculture, Agricultural Development and Public Policy from Texas A&M.

Robert M. White

Bob White currently serves as the Director of National Government Relations for Indiana Farm Bureau where he is responsible for keeping the Indiana Congressional Delegation abreast of INFB policy.  In 2017 White was chosen to be on the AFBF farm bill working group whose task it was to help shape the possible outcomes of the current farm bill. This is the sixth farm bill that White has worked on.Bob grew up on his family farm in northwest Indiana and attended Purdue University where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Agricultural Mechanization


Starting out, Bob served a variety of roles in his seven years with the Farm Credit System, achieving professional status as a farm manager and rural appraiser with the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

Early in his career, Bob participated in the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program where he spent two years discussing agriculture and rural policy in the U.S. and abroad at the University of Krakow following the end of communist rule.  He joined Indiana Farm Bureau for the first time in 1996 as Director of Natural Resources where he gained experience in grassroots development at the local, state and national levels.

In 1998 Bob moved to Washington D.C. where he served as a senior policy staff member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. Then three years later, Senator Richard Lugar nominated, and President Bush appointed him to serve as the Indiana State Director of USDA Rural Development.  In that role Bob oversaw an $8 million annual budget and was responsible for a variety of loan and grant programs which invested nearly $4 billion in rural Indiana during his tenure.  During this time, Bob also spent time working in the EU on agricultural issues on detail from USDA.

Later in his career, Bob was founder and CEO of WRW & Associates, a consulting company who assisted rural communities and agriculture producers in changing their paradigm of rural economic business development. 

Bob rejoined Farm Bureau in 2012 and became Director of National Government Relations in 2016.

For his efforts in assisting agriculture and rural Hoosiers, Bob was honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest honor given to an individual in the state of Indiana.

Bob still owns and manages his family farm. He and his wife, Melina reside in Greensburg, Indiana with their three rescued dogs.

Doug Farquhar, J.D

Doug Farquhar is an attorney with close to 30 year’s experience working with policy makers on environmental and health issues. Primarily working with state legislatures, he has testified 53 times before legislative committees in 32 states, in addition to consulting with state agency staff in every state on enlightening state policy makers. He has written books and articles on state legislative policy and is a columnist for the National Environmental Health Journal.


For the past 21 years, Mr. Farquhar has directed the Environmental Health Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. This program performs legislative analysis and outreach on state and federal environmental, health and trade laws; focusing on the delegation and authorization of federal and state laws; and provides legal and technical assistance to state legislators and agency staff on state, federal and international environmental, environmental health, and trade policies. He also provides testimony before state legislative committees and task forces; reviews and comments on legislation and regulations, drafts memos, articles and books on state environmental health policies; and represents state interests before federal and international bodies.

As director of Environmental Health he works closely with federal counterparts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

Prior to coming to NCSL, Doug worked in the Texas House of Representatives for the Natural Resources and Appropriations Committees and for Congressman Schaefer on Capitol Hill in Washington. He received his law degree from the University of Denver (DU) and undergraduate from the University of Texas in Austin. He is adjunct professor in the DU graduate school of Environmental Policy and Management and at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Barry Carpenter

Barry Carpenter is the Senior Advisor for Regulatory Affairs & Client Relations for Food Safety Net Services (FSNS), a nationwide leader in safeguarding our nation’s food supply. Prior to joining FSNS, Carpenter served for over ten years as the CEO of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) where he worked closely with government regulators on significant issues facing the meat industry, including new food safety regulations and marketing.


Prior to joining NAMI, he served for nearly 15 years as the Deputy Administrator for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) where he oversaw commodity checkoff programs. In that role, he also represented the United States on the United Nation’s Committee on Agriculture from 1990 until 2006. He’s received Presidential Rank awards from both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush which honors career government employees service and was inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. He is a graduate of the University of Florida.

our staff

Curtis Anderson:

Chief Financial Officer

Anderson served USDA as the Chief of Staff for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Chief of Staff for the Rural Housing Service (RHS) as well as both Deputy Administrator and Acting Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). His previous service to rural America also includes being CFO & General Counsel for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and a former Secretary to the Board of the Farm Credit Administration. Anderson is a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, the US Court of Appeals, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, and is licensed to practice law in California and Oklahoma.

Veronica Frantz-Eggleston

Chief of Staff

Veronica Frantz-Eggleston is the Chief of Staff for the National Industrial Hemp Council.  For over twenty years, Veronica has worked at C-Suite and Senior levels of management to assist start-ups and local businesses to understand the complex world of Operations Management.

She earned her degree in Forensic Medicine from the State University of New York at Albany and Women’s Leadership from Harvard University.

Andrea Hall

Vice President of Partnerships and Finance

Hall’s USDA experience includes the Office of American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs as well as serving as a Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her public service continued in the Office of the Secretary at the US Department of Defense under three Secretaries. She later spearheaded the development of a biometric identification scheme to provide microcredit to women farmers across West Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya in conjunction with ECOWAS, the African Development Bank and the World Bank. She has previously been Chief Operating Officer as well as s Controller for multinational development companies. Hall earned her MBA, with a focus in international management, from the University of Liverpool and a BA in History from the University of Oregon.

Kevin Sage-EL

Advisor to the President

Kevin Sage-EL has more than 30 years of experience with the USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in senior leadership and advising, conducting agricultural commodity analysis, foreign market development, promoting U.S. exports, managing grants programs, negotiating, crafting, and defending U.S. trade policy agreements, and practicing international diplomacy.  Prior to retirement, Mr. Sage-EL was the Agricultural Counselor at the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya with additional responsibilities for managing $850,000 in U.S. programs throughout the East African region, including Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, and Burundi.  He also collaborated with international project partners, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Mr. Sage-EL was also the U.S. Embassy agricultural lead in the initial 2020 U.S. – Kenya trade negotiations, where he successfully guided Kenya, leading up to those meetings to agree to several deliverables beneficial for U.S. access to Kenya’s market.

Kevin holds an MS Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Kentucky, an MA in Economics and International Development from Virginia State University and, a BS in Business Management and Economics from Shaw University.


Darryl Walter

Senior Director of Membership

Darryl Walter is a marketing strategist with a global record of success with increasing individual and corporate membership, circulation, conference attendance, and fundraising. Darryl has over twenty years of experience increasing membership for associations. During Darryl’s six years with the Solid Waste Association of North America, membership in SWANA has increased by more than 36%. Before leading SWANA’s membership efforts, Darryl was Chief of Staff with The Wildlife Society where he increased membership by more than 40% and was Membership Marketing Manager with the largest general science society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Darryl has a B.A. in American Studies from Kent State University and lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE with his wife. Feel free to LinkedIn with Darryl at https://www.linkedin.com/in/darrylwalter/

Sean Callanan:

Director of Trade and Markets

Sean brings significant experience in agricultural commodities and international market access program delivery. He has worked for the last five years as a consultant across the sector, prior to which he was Global Operations director for Cotton USA managing research, marketing and promotions for European and South Asian markets.  He led the US Grains Council team delivering its United Export Strategy working with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Today Sean manages Market Access Program activation as we build our footprint in Europe and beyond.

government funding

NIHC last year received funding from the U.S. Department of Agricultural (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP) to support export market development of industrial hemp.  

MAP funds are administered through USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Through the MAP program, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities.

Funds can be used for facilitating trade missions and meeting with industry stakeholders and government regulators overseas.

West Town Payments, in its partnership with West Town Bank & Trust, offers a full-service banking and payments solution catered to the hemp industry.

This allows hemp businesses to bundle financial service solutions for an end-to-end tailored approach, all while increasing revenues, reducing risk and having access to better service.

We know your business from the ground up

We’re a hemp-friendly bank with market specialists who have a deep understanding of the financial challenges you and your industry face.

Connect with a hemp banking specialist to get started.
Email Nely Valcheva [email protected]

There is a $150 monthly compliance management fee associated with Hemp/CBD relationships. This fee will be charged to a designated checking account. Account openings and credit are subject to Bank approval. Individual state licensing and registration requirements apply. Member FDIC

Thank you for your interest in joining the National Industrial Hemp Council of America. Please fill in the below form, and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss our membership options.

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