About Us


The National Industrial Hemp Council provides high quality networking and resources for its members, from the farm to consumer. Our leadership is composed of leading international, federal, state, private industry, and government professionals throughout the sector. Our goal is to further market development, assist members in entering the industry, and educating the consumer on industrial hemp and its applications. Educating consumers is of paramount importance for NIHC. Customers are the bedrock of this revolution and they have the right to be safe. This means truth-in-labeling in this rapidly growing industry. There are a lot of confusing and contradicting claims and assertions. Farmers, manufacturers, financial institutions, suppliers, transporters, and consumers have the right to fact-based information. NIHC is cutting through the noise with its team and partners to provide its members and the public with this important information.



Board Chairman

Patrick Atagi is President and CEO of DA Farms in Nyssa, Oregon where he is a 3rd generation specialty crop farm owner. He served as Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Agriculture during the George W. Bush administration. Atagi is an experienced executive with a demonstrated history of working in the government relations industry. Atagi served as a Legislative Assistant under United States Senator Mark O. Hatfield (Oregon), then Chairman of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee.

Atagi is also the head of government affairs for NWPCA. He leads staff on policy analysis of regulatory and legislative issues. Atagi is responsible for obtaining, contracting, and managing outside expert consultants on industry issues. He builds and maintains coalitions with associations whose members use wood pallets and containers. He also assists members and strengthen their relationships with affiliated industry groups.

Atagi represents association positions in front of international, federal and state officials, industry groups, and other associations. Atagi has his State Government Affairs Professional Certificate from the State Government Affairs Council. He is skilled in managing nonprofit organizations, working with Board of Directors and Executive Committees, annual meeting management and planning, governmental affairs, and media/ communications. 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.

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



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.


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.


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


Doug Farquhar is an attorney with close to 30 years’ 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 Matt 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.


Jason is a licensed attorney and MBA and began his career as an Intern at Lobbyit in 2014. One year later, he re-joined the firm in a full-time capacity as Manager of Legislative & Regulatory Analysis. During his time away from Lobbyit, Jason worked as a policy assistant at Monument Advocacy, a government relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle. In addition to his advocacy experience, Jason practiced law with a real estate due diligence law firm in Columbia, Maryland and served as a senior aide to a D.C.-city council campaign.

Since starting at Lobbyit as an unpaid intern, Jason has risen through the ranks to become Vice President, providing expert counsel and professional advocacy services to entities of varied backgrounds. He currently manages a portfolio of clients which includes many of the firm’s industry associations, directing their government relations strategies on a range of domestic and international priorities, such as healthcare, technology development, education, and labor law.

On behalf of his clients, Jason monitors all relevant legislative and regulatory activity in Washington and in many state legislatures across the country, produces in-depth analysis and strategic advice, and provides expertise on accessing federal government assistance through Congress and the Executive Branch. Additionally, Jason provides an invaluable presence within the firm’s business operations hierarchy; working in every aspect of the firm’s management activity, he oversees operations and vendor relationships, and assists in developing partnerships with industry stakeholders.

Mr. Ortega hails from Chattanooga, TN, and earned his BS in Business from Southern Adventist University, and his JD/MBA from The Ohio State University. He is licensed to practice law in Ohio.


Michelle Umberger

Event Manager

Russell Laird

Advocacy Advisor

Nathaniel Lewis

Industry Advisor

Stephanie Grove

Member Services