Hazlett selected to lead USDA Rural Development agencies

By Erin Voegele | June 14, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has named Anne Hazlett to lead USDA’s Rural Development agencies. Hazlett, who’s title will be assistant to the secretary for Rural Development, will report directly to Perdue. The USDA said Hazlett’s appointment keeps with the realignment of USDA announced by Perdue last month.

In May, Perdue unveiled a plan to reorganize the USDA. Part of that plan includes the elimination of the undersecretary for Rural Development, with Rural Development agencies to now report directly to the secretary of agriculture. While Perdue framed the change as one designed to ensure rural America always has a seat at the table by elevating Rural Development within the USDA framework, some have criticized the change.

Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., recently pushed back against Perdue’s plans to eliminate the USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, expressing concern that elimination of the position will hinder efforts to boost rural development and grow rural economies.

“We believe that it is important to send the right signal to rural America regarding our commitment to the families who live there.  In order to do that, and to effectively manage taxpayer dollars, we must have an experienced leader at the helm who is focused on managing and delivering these important programs,” the senators wrote in a letter to Perdue. 

The senators noted that while they have received many communications from stakeholders, interest groups and concerned citizens asking them to oppose the elimination of the Rural Development Under Secretary, they have not received one statement in support of the change.

Prior to her nomination, Hazlett served as chief counsel to the majority on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. In her new position, she will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service within the USDA.

An Indiana native, Hazlett has worked on agricultural and rural issues for more than 15 years. As Republican Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, she was an advisor on many issues impacting rural America from Farm Bill programs to broadband and child nutrition.  In addition to her public service in Washington, Hazlett was the director of Agriculture for her home state where she managed the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and was an advisor to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on agriculture and rural issues.  Further, she served as chief of staff to Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman where she assisted in the creation of the state’s first Office of Community and 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 private law practice where she advised clients on agriculture and environmental regulatory matters.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service houses several programs that benefit biofuel and bioenergy development, including the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program; Repowering Assistance Program; Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program; and Rural Energy for America Program.