One of Cargill Inc.’s most visible executives, Devry Boughner Vorwerk, left this week after 15 years with the agriculture processor and trader, the last three as chief communications officer and vice president of corporate affairs.
Cargill confirmed in a short statement Friday that Vorwerk departed sometime this week. The statement said that, as a company, “we wish her well.” A spokeswoman declined to say why Vorwerk left, citing the company’s policy of privacy on personnel matters.
Vorwerk did not return a request for comment.
She reported directly to chief executive Dave MacLennan. In the wake of her departure, her responsibilities are being divided at the Minnetonka-based firm, which is Minnesota’s second-largest by revenue and the largest private company in the U.S.
Cargill’s government-relations team will report to chief counsel Anna Richo, while communications and corporate affairs operations will report to Ruth Kimmelshue, head of business operations and supply chain.
Vorwerk worked at Cargill for nearly 12 years during a stint that began in 2004, when she started as an Asia-Pacific region trade specialist. She rose to the position of chief lobbyist in Cargill’s Washington, D.C., office before leaving for a role as a policy adviser at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the nation’s largest legal and lobbying firms.
Cargill courted her back into its ranks in 2016 as head of global corporate affairs. In addition to government relations, the job oversaw Cargill’s communications, corporate responsibility and sustainable development work.
“Not only is Devry highly qualified to lead corporate affairs, she is passionate about advancing the company’s vision and purpose to be the leader in nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way,” MacLennan said in the announcement of her return to the company at that time.
Her departure and the resulting shake-up at Cargill comes as it navigates a tumultuous period. Escalating trade tensions and a trade war with China threaten Cargill’s business as the world’s largest commodities trader. Cargill, under Vorwerk’s leadership, has criticized President Donald Trump’s trade policies, which are rearranging the global flow of foods and other goods.
Cargill historically kept a relatively low profile, but it was one of the rare voices in corporate America to challenge Trump and remain an advocate for free-trade policies.
The company recently came under fire from interest groups accusing it of not taking bold enough actions to advance environmental protections, particularly in Brazil, the second-largest producer of food in the Western hemisphere. Last month, Cargill reported its annual net profit fell 17% because of the effects of the trade war, flooding in the Midwest and the African swine-fever outbreak in China.