In action on Friday, the full Senate confirmed that former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small was the USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development. The position was never filled during the Trump administration due to a change in the Undersecretary position to allow the post of Undersecretary of Commerce to be held at the USDA.
As the daughter of migrant farm workers and originally from rural New Mexico, Torres Small represents “the heart and soul of rural communities,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said when announcing her appointment in June.
Torres Small began her work in southern New Mexico, as a field organizer in the colonies, and continued her work in rural New Mexico as a field representative of the former Senator Tom Udall, DN.M., where she worked with local leaders and elected officials. She continued her education at the University of New Mexico School of Law and in 2018 became the first woman and the first person of color to represent the 2nd Congressional District of New Mexico, the largest district that does not or not its own state.
“As Under Secretary of Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small will build on her legacy as a champion of small towns and rural communities – much like the one she grew up in in New Mexico,” said the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “She will give voice to 60 million rural Americans at the highest levels of the USDA. I look forward to working with her to meet critical rural needs including high speed internet, infrastructure and high paying jobs.
“While our committee addresses a wide range of issues, everything we do comes down to improving the livelihoods and futures of those who live in rural America. There are many pressing challenges facing our rural communities that Congress and USDA must work together to address. I congratulate the new Under Secretary Torres Small and am ready to work with her to expand access to affordable broadband, ensure continued access to reliable power generation, improve water infrastructure and create new economic opportunities in rural America, ”the Senate Agriculture Committee ranking said. Member John Boozman, R-Ark.
The committee held a hearing on Torres Small’s candidacy on July 29, 2021 along with the candidate Under-Secretary for Agricultural Production and Conservation, Robert Bonnie. Bonnie has yet to be approved by the entire Senate.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., Said that in her time as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, “it was clear that she had a passion for rural communities and programs within its mission area are essential to the quality of life and employment opportunities in rural areas, from rural utility programs, including rural broadband, to business development programs, including bioenergy and energy efficiency incentives.
Scott adds, “I have no doubts that she will be an effective leader for rural development, and I look forward to having her before the Agriculture Committee to provide updates on the work of the USDA.”
The Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Trading, Energy and Credit Subcommittee Antonio Delgado, DN.Y., said that during his tenure at alongside her on the House agriculture committee, he knew she would be a “staunch defender of our rural communities.” “
Delgado said as Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Trading, Energy and Credit: “I look forward to working with Under Secretary Torres-Small to provide broadband, supporting our small businesses and improving energy efficiency. The 19th Congressional District of New York and the rural communities of the United States deserve decisive action and investment from the USDA.