Farm Progress

Senate confirms Torres Small to be Deputy Ag Secretary

The New Mexico native has been with USDA since 2021.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

July 11, 2023

3 Min Read
Xochitl Torres Small speaking at podium
Getty Images

The Senate has confirmed Xochitl Torres Small to serve as Deputy of Secretary of Agriculture, making her USDA’s second-highest ranking official. Only eight senators opposed her nomination. She replaces Jewel Bronaugh, who left in March after two years on the job.

“This is a well-deserved achievement that reflects her fierce dedication to and hard work on behalf of America’s agriculture sector,” House Agriculture Committee ranking member David Scott, R- Ga., said shortly after her confirmation. “I am confident that she will continue working with that same passion and commitment in her new role, and I look forward to continuing our work together as the House Agriculture Committee crafts a farm bill that ensures America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters have the support they need to succeed.”

Torres Small is USDA’s first Hispanic deputy secretary. She has served as the agency’s undersecretary for rural development since 2021. Before that she represented New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 2019 to 2021. During that time, she was on the House Agriculture Committee as well as the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. She has a law degree from the University of New Mexico and has worked as an attorney specializing in water and natural resources law.

President Biden nominated Torres Small in February. Since then, she has garnered wide support from both political parties and agriculture industry leaders.

“Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small has a proven record of championing solutions for the agricultural supply chain and fostering economic growth for communities across the nation,” National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Ted McKinney said minutes after her confirmation. “With her experience leading the industry as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development and her perspective on state and local issues as former U.S. representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, NASDA is elated at today’s Senate confirmation and looks forward to her leadership.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called Torres Small “an exemplary member of the USDA subcabinet and a dedicated advocate for rural communities.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall welcomed her nomination, saying her experience with rural America and her time on the House Agriculture Committee gives important perspective to address the issues facing farmers and ranchers.

In March, more than 50 food and agriculture trade associations sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow,  D- Mich., and ranking member John Boozman, D- Ark, endorsing her nomination. They cited her work at USDA to strengthen supply chains, expand rural broadband service and increase market opportunities for rural businesses as proof of her qualifications.

“We believe that agricultural stakeholders, rural communities, and the American people will be well served by Under Secretary Torres Small’s service as Deputy Secretary of the USDA,” the letter read. “We strongly urge the Committee to quickly advance Under Secretary Torres Small’s nomination so she can continue her important work in this expanded capacity, particularly as the Farm Bill reauthorization process is underway.”

Two months later the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously advanced her nomination to the full Senate. At the time, Stabenow and Boozman both issued statements calling on the Senate to quickly confirm her. Now that they have, Torres Small will likely hit the ground running with the deadline to pass a new farm bill fast approaching.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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