New Mexico’s top ag official to serve as voice for farming, ranching in the West

NMDA Director Witte elected by western counterparts to head policy organization

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte has been elected to preside over the organization that unifies the voices of state departments of agriculture in the West.

Witte assumed leadership of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture (WASDA) this weekend during the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in Burlington, Vermont.  He will serve in the role, as well as on the NASDA board, from now until September 2015, all the while continuing to lead the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA). 

“Agriculture is so different in the West compared to agriculture in the Midwest, say, or even in the northeastern states,” Witte said.  “WASDA assimilates the voices of Western departments of agriculture – which are themselves assimilating the voices of farmers and ranchers in their respective states – in order for us to have strong, unified representation before USDA, Congress, and other entities that affect farming, ranching, and other forms of agriculture.”

WASDA is comprised of the commissioners, secretaries, and directors of agriculture from New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, as well as Guam and Samoa.  Both WASDA and NASDA focus on issues related to animals and plants, marketing and trade, financial security and infrastructure, food regulation, environment and conservation, and the Farm Bill.  

“It’s a great honor to represent New Mexico on both boards and to provide input on important policy issues impacting our farmers and ranchers, our food processors, and our retailers,” Witte said.

Given Witte’s leadership of WASDA, New Mexico will host the group’s annual conference next July.  Witte says his counterparts are already talking excitedly about tasting New Mexico’s famous cuisine and enjoying the unique landscape around Santa Fe.

Witte grew up on his family’s ranch between Moriarty and Las Vegas, NM.  He earned bachelors and masters degrees in agricultural business and economics from New Mexico State University.  He started his career in agricultural policy, then served as deputy director and biosecurity director of NMDA.  After starting up the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU, Witte was selected to lead NMDA in May 2011.  Jeff and his wife Janet have two children, Jeremy and Jennifer, both of whom are also active in agriculture.