Torres Small to relocate to Washington
Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small is in the process of moving from New Mexico to Washington, she told The Hagstrom Report in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Torres Small, a former Democratic House member from New Mexico who was recently confirmed by the Senate and sworn in by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said she is still working from her living room in New Mexico but has signed a lease on living space in Washington.
Acknowledging that the Rural Development mission area is broad, Torres Small said she wants to be “a true ally for people in rural communities” on everything from making them more resilient in disasters to creating new income opportunities and increasing equity.
On the Build Back Better Act being negotiated in Congress, she said she wants to make sure the Rural Development mission area is ready “to advance those priorities” and make sure the money “is spent wisely.”
She added that she is working hard to make sure Congress “knows the essential work” that Rural Development does and pointed out that an announcement about water and waste treatment programs included money for an Arizona community that was on the brink of losing its water supply.
On the question of Rural Development employees being vaccinated against COVID-19, she said that it is vital that employees “take the step necessary” so that Rural Development is “in full operating shape” to get its work done.
On biofuels, Torres Small noted that, at her confirmation hearing, senators had asked her a lot about the issue and that she promised to make sure biofuels are an integral part of local economies and to help make processing as efficient and effective as possible.
On housing, she said Rural Development has an opportunity to make sure that people who benefit from USDA programs don’t lose their homes in the midst of the pandemic.
The Biden administration has been criticized for the slowness in the appointment of state Farm Service Agency and Rural Development officials, but Torres Small said “the secret sauce” for Rural Development is having “the right people in place,” and that takes time.
Asked about rumors that she will run for Congress in 2022, trying to regain the seat that she held for one term from 2018 to 2020, Torres Small said that she is “grateful to do this job” and “this is where my heart is now,” but that having served a term in Congress helped her “build the skill set” for the task ahead.
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