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Chairwoman Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on Deputy Agriculture Secretary Nominee Xochitl Torres Small

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at a hearing to consider the nomination of the Honorable Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Live video of the hearing is available here.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

I call this hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to order. This Committee has a deep understanding of the vital role that the U.S. Department of Agriculture plays in our country. From farmers and ranchers feeding America and families trying to make ends meet, to the more than 46 million people living in rural communities around the country, the USDA touches the lives of countless Americans every day.

I am pleased that we are here to consider a nominee who shares our understanding of – and appreciation for – this Department. Under Secretary Torres Small, welcome and congratulations on your nomination to serve as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Your impressive and wide-ranging background makes you an ideal candidate to help lead the nearly 100,000 public servants USDA has stationed at more than 4,500 locations across the country and around the world. 

Ms. Torres Small has strong roots in the agricultural community. The granddaughter of farmworkers, she grew up in the borderlands of New Mexico and understands both the virtues of, and the challenges faced by, our rural communities. She is also a trailblazer, as the first woman and the first person of color to represent New Mexico’s Second Congressional District in Congress. 

In Congress, Ms. Torres Small served on the House Committee on Agriculture, showing that she is deeply committed to food and farm policy. As a Congresswoman, she prioritized investing in high-speed, affordable internet and modern, reliable water and wastewater systems for her constituents – making it easier for children to learn and farmers to grow.

In the Summer of 2021, I was proud to support her nomination to be Under Secretary of Rural Development at USDA, a position to which she was confirmed unanimously. At the time, rural communities were still reeling from the pandemic. Her leadership was vital to carrying out USDA Rural Development’s mission of providing communities – and the small businesses and local governments that lift them up – with the support and resources that they need to succeed. 

Ms. Torres Small’s leadership and advocacy before Congress was critical in our efforts to secure $2 billion to expand rural broadband through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. During her time as Under Secretary, Rural Development was the first federal agency to invest Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds in physical infrastructure for high-speed internet.  She also moved swiftly to make Rural Development funding available, which reduced energy costs for farmers and small businesses. Last year, Congress made the largest investment in rural electric since the New Deal and under her stewardship, USDA has been a leader in delivering those benefits to our rural communities.

It is clear to me that Ms. Torres Small has a proven track record as a strong leader, which will be needed as the Department faces unprecedented challenges like tackling the climate crisis and helping farmers manage geopolitical risks. Thank you again for being here today, Ms. Torres Small, and I look forward to hearing about your plans for the Department and your vision for the future of agriculture.