The roots of New Mexico Department of Agriculture can be traced back to before New Mexico was a state. The Constitution of the State of New Mexico was adopted in 1911, a year before our formal welcome into the Union. In this constitution the founders called for a special department. They called for a department of agriculture. It shall be under the control of the board of regents of the college of agriculture and mechanic arts.
That explains why NMDA is located in Las Cruces on the campus of New Mexico State University (NMSU). It makes sense that our founders codified a relationship between the school and the then-yet-to-be agriculture department. New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was already vested with agricultural resources to serve the public interest. This is the name NMSU was then known by.
Fast-forward four decades. In 1955 NMSU’s Board of Regents voted to centralize a number of regulatory services under a single administrative agency. This caused the New Mexico Department of Agriculture was officially born. Today, NMDA is a producer-consumer service and regulatory department. Its mandate has changed over the years in tandem with the needs of agricultural producers and consumers.
Since 1978, the director of NMDA has also served as the secretary of agriculture on the Governor’s Cabinet. As such, the director/secretary is the official representative of New Mexico’s agricultural industry to state and federal government.
Over the last half-century, NMDA has been directed by a short list of long-serving leaders. Director/Secretary Jeff Witte is just the fifth person to hold the post. He was appointed in 2011 to lead the department’s efforts. Witte previously served as NMDA’s assistant director.