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Perdue names rural development assistant to secretaryPerdue names rural development assistant to secretary

Senate Ag Committee chief counsel Anne Hazlett selected by Perdue to lead Rural Development agencies at USDA.

Jacqui Fatka

June 12, 2017

3 Min Read
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Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named Anne Hazlett -- chief counsel to the majority on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee -- to lead the Rural Development agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hazlett, whose title will be assistant to the secretary for rural development, will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service and the Rural Housing Service within USDA and report directly to the secretary. The announcement is in keeping with the realignment of USDA announced by Perdue in May and represents an elevation of the Rural Development leader, which previously was in the portfolio of an undersecretary who, in turn, reported to the deputy secretary of agriculture.

“With this addition to USDA Rural Development, rural America will have a seat at the main table and have walk-in privileges with the secretary on day one,” Perdue said. “With her background of advising the Senate committee overseeing agricultural and rural development issues, Anne Hazlett comes with a depth of knowledge and experience perfectly suited to her role in helping to restore prosperity to rural America. We are excited to have her aboard.”

“It is important to note that the systems, functions and internal structure of the Rural Development agencies will not be changing. Removing the additional bureaucratic layer of an undersecretary will allow Hazlett, as assistant to the secretary, to obtain ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decisions directly from Perdue without having to have ideas or suggestions passed through channels in the office,” USDA said in a statement.

The proposed changes to the Rural Development mission area at USDA have come under fire. On Friday, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) pushed back on the plans to eliminate the undersecretary for rural development, expressing concern that eliminating the position will hinder efforts to boost rural development and grow rural economies across the country. Merkley serves as the top Democrat on the Senate’s agriculture appropriations subcommittee, and Stabenow is in the same position on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“While we have received many communications from stakeholders, interest groups and concerned citizens asking that we oppose the elimination of the rural development undersecretary, we have not received one statement in support,” the senators wrote in a letter to Perdue. “For these reasons, we cannot agree with this component of your reorganization proposal and respectfully request that you maintain a Senate-confirmed undersecretary for rural development.”

Hazlett, meanwhile, said she is excited to be on board at USDA.

“Small towns and the people who call them home have been my life’s passion,” Hazlett said. “It is with great enthusiasm and a deep commitment to rural America that I am eager to get to work at USDA and be a partner in crafting solutions to the significant challenges these communities face -- from economic opportunity to infrastructure, quality housing and addiction.”

Hazlett, an Indiana native, has worked on agriculture and rural issues for more than 15 years. Working in both the U.S. House and Senate, Hazlett most recently served as Republican chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she was an advisor on many issues affecting rural America, ranging from farm bill programs to broadband access and child nutrition.

In addition to her public service in Washington, D.C., Hazlett was the director of agriculture for her home state, managing the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and serving as an advisor to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on agricultural and rural issues. Further, she served as chief of staff to Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, where she assisted in the creation of the state’s first Office of Community & Rural Affairs -- an agency devoted to providing financial and technical assistance to rural communities -- and supervised management of the state’s housing finance, energy and tourism agencies. Outside of public service, Hazlett was in a private law practice, advising clients on agricultural and environmental regulatory matters.

Hazlett graduated from Kansas State University magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural communications. In addition, she holds a law degree from Indiana University and a master's degree in agricultural law from the University of Arkansas.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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