New Mexico Delegation Urges Swift Appointment of New Mexico Rural Development State Director

Aug 10, 2017

Lawmakers say position, currently vacant, is critical for managing USDA’s programs that provide hundreds of loans & grants each year in NM

USDA RD provided more than $1.7 billion in New Mexico over the past 7 years

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján, and Michelle Lujan Grisham and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to appoint a Rural Development (RD) state director for New Mexico as soon as possible, to continue the critical mission of USDA RD to administer programs that provide hundreds of loans and grants each year for rural New Mexico, and to promote economic growth and improve quality of life in the state. Over the last seven years, USDA RD has provided New Mexico with more than $1.7 billion in “crucial support during a time of poor economic growth in our state, especially for many rural communities,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Perdue. 

President Trump has not appointed a New Mexico USDA RD director since taking office in January.

“Given the diversity and unique characteristics of New Mexico, we believe that strong state director leadership is essential to providing robust and efficient levels of service for our struggling rural communities,” the delegation wrote. “New Mexico is a majority-minority state, with the highest proportion of Hispanic residents of any state and the second-highest proportion of Native Americans, and includes many unique and historic rural agricultural communities. Economic changes in the agriculture and other industries in all corners of our state are leading many communities to turn to USDA RD for assistance.”

The delegation continued, “USDA RD’s mission is especially important in our state because New Mexico has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation at 20.4 percent. New Mexico is 50th in poverty among those who work full time year round and is one of six states where income inequality is greater for rural households than for urban households. In addition, New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation today. While the energy and tourism sectors are showing some recent strength, employment in the agriculture sector declined by 3.5 percent last year. These employment losses are projected to reach 5.7 percent by 2020. USDA RD programs have helped New Mexico’s rural communities remain resilient, however more work is urgently needed to bring economic growth up to the level enjoyed by rest of the country.”

"I can say from experience that having a state director in place with knowledge of the state helps improve program performance, increases the profile of the agency and grows investments in needed rural areas,” said Terry Brunner, former New Mexico state director for USDA RD. “This position was made available for presidential appointment because Congress recognized that the administration must have an on-the-ground presence in rural communities."

The delegation said that USDA RD has helped over 3,000 families in New Mexico participate in projects and create new opportunities to improve quality of life and spur economic growth in the state. 

The full text of the letter is available below and here

Dear Secretary Perdue:

Thank you for your service as the Secretary of Agriculture. We write to respectfully request that a qualified New Mexico Rural Development State Director be named as soon as possible in order to continue the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (USDA RD) mission in our state.

This position is critical to providing on-the-ground leadership for USDA to manage over 5,000 loans, grants, and assistance programs. USDA RD provided more than $1.7 billion in New Mexico over the past seven years, crucial support during a time of poor economic growth in our state, especially for many rural communities. This funding came primarily through affordable loans, which can create new jobs and fund rural infrastructure projects at a good value for taxpayers. In that time, USDA RD has helped communities and over 3,000 families do projects and create opportunities to make their lives better and spur economic growth. 

Given the diversity and unique characteristics of New Mexico, we believe that strong state director leadership is essential to providing robust and efficient levels of service for our struggling rural communities. New Mexico is a majority minority state, with the highest proportion of Hispanic residents of any state and the second-highest proportion of Native Americans, and includes many unique and historic rural agricultural communities. Economic changes in the agriculture and other industries in all corners of our state are leading many communities to turn to USDA RD for assistance.

USDA RD’s mission is especially important in our state because New Mexico has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation at 20.4 percent. New Mexico is 50th in poverty among those who work full time year round and is one of six states where income inequality is greater for rural households than for urban households. In addition New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation today. While the energy and tourism sectors are showing some recent strength, employment in the agriculture sector declined by 3.5 percent last year. These employment losses are projected to reach 5.7 percent by 2020. USDA RD programs have helped New Mexico’s rural communities remain resilient, however more work is urgently needed to bring economic growth up to the level enjoyed by rest of the country.

To enable USDA to work effectively to face these challenges, New Mexico needs a state director who can understand the local context and ensure that USDA RD resources match the economic and social development needs of our diverse communities. Therefore, we respectfully urge you to appoint a State Director as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to my/our request and we hope you will consider New Mexico’s needs on this and other important matters under your leadership at USDA. If we can be of any assistance in your work at the Department, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

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Contacts: Keeley Christensen (Pearce) 202.329.2862 / Jennifer Talhelm (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Whitney Potter (Heinrich) 202.228.1578 / Joe Shoemaker (Luján) 202.225.6190 / Gilbert Gallegos (Lujan Grisham) 202.225.6316