Xochitl Torres Small, a former congresswoman and the granddaughter of farmworkers, was easily confirmed by the Senate Tuesday as USDA's new deputy agriculture secretary. 

Torres Small, whose nomination was approved 84-8, has been serving as the department's undersecretary for rural development since 2021. She replaces Jewel Bronaugh, who stepped down from the position earlier this year. 

Ahead of the vote, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Torres Small’s “impressive and wide-ranging resume makes her an ideal appointee to help lead the more than 100,000 public servants” at USDA. 

Stabenow said Torres Small has proven “herself to be a staunch advocate for rural communities” and will be “laser-focused” on improving USDA's customer service.

Stabenow credited Torres Small with moving quickly to distribute $2 billion in rural broadband funding allocated to USDA by the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in 2021. 

During her confirmation hearing in May, Torres Small was pressed to streamline the delivery of USDA programs. The deputy secretary has typically served as USDA’s chief operating officer. 

"At this critical time when USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration are laser-focused on mobilizing historic investments to rebuild our economy and secure healthier, more vibrant communities for future generations, I am grateful to have Xochitl’s partnership at the helm of the People’s Department," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

"She has time and again met the moment with a collaborative approach and a can-do spirit, and I applaud Congress for confirming her as USDA’s next Deputy Secretary.”     

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The top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, said Torres Small had "excelled in her leadership role as Undersecretary for Rural Development and is more than prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with being the top deputy at USDA."

Her nomination was advanced by the committee May 17, just one week after her confirmation hearing before the panel. She was nominated for the position in February

Many of the country's farm groups supported her bid for a USDA promotion, with more than 50 signing onto a March letter saying she has “demonstrated a deep commitment to addressing challenges in the agricultural supply chain, fostering economic opportunities and security through rural infrastructure investments, and fighting for the needs of rural Americans.”

Torres Small, a lawyer and former aide to then-Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., served one term in the House of Representatives, where the New Mexico Democrat was also a member of the House Ag Committee, before losing her reelection bid in 2020. 

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