Jeff M. Witte, Director/Secretary of Agriculture

Director Jeff Witte and NMDA building

Jeff grew up on his family’s ranch on the Rowe Mesa between Moriarty and Las Vegas, NM.  He graduated from NMSU with his bachelor’s in ag business management and his master’s in ag economics.

After college, Jeff took a job with Farm Bureau as the field representative for the counties in northern New Mexico.  He also worked the policy side of things, lobbying in Santa Fe for the state’s farmers and ranchers. During his days in Farm Bureau, Jeff noticed that farmer groups and rancher groups weren’t always in contact with one another, so he set out to change that.  The Ag Group, as it’s loosely known, still circles the wagons every year before the legislative session to set policy priorities that will benefit all of agriculture.  Also, during the session ends, the group puts on what’s known as Ag Fest to showcase to legislators and their staff the diversity of New Mexico agriculture.  Jeff was instrumental in making this an annual event.

Jeff came to NMDA in 1994.  He spent the next nine years as the assistant director alongside Secretary Frank DuBois.  During that time, Jeff helped create the Ag Leadership program, which takes folks from across New Mexico agriculture and shows them a variety of leadership styles and challenges their own attitudes.  You could say that that two-year program is an informal version of master’s degree in leadership for New Mexico agriculture.

Then Jeff went to work as the director for the Office of Agricultural Biosecurity for NMDA and NMSU.  He later started up the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU.  In both of these positions, he worked with private industry and officials at all levels of government to develop plans to protect agriculture as part of a homeland security strategy.  Jeff still heads up trainings on the subject from time to time.

The bulk of his time as secretary of agriculture is spent on the road, meeting with groups that represent farmers and ranchers across the state.  Jeff’s also put his old policy skills to good use by educating legislators on New Mexico agriculture and encouraging their votes for bills that support the state’s farmers and ranchers.

Jeff and his wife Janet live in the northern Mesilla Valley.  They have two kids.  Like his dad, Jeremy is studying ag economics and ag business at NMSU; the couple’s daughter, Jennifer, attends Mayfield High School.  Both have been active in 4H and FFA, as well as showing animals at the fair, among their many other activities.  Jeff and Janet set a good example by remaining active in a number of organizations that promote New Mexico agriculture.