WASHINGTON, D.C. (KRQE) – A handful of lawmakers on a U.S. Senate committee are now weighing the possible advancement of former New Mexico congresswoman to a high-profile government appointment. Xochitl Torres Small faced a nomination hearing Wednesday in the nomination process for the role of deputy secretary with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Raised in Las Cruces, Torres Small has been serving as the USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development since October 2021. In February, Torres Small was nominated to the deputy secretary role, second in command to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry questioned Torres Small for roughly an hour during Wednesday’s hearing. Senators in part outlined the responsibility of the role of a “large and sprawling agency,” overseeing nearly 100,000 employees, 29 agencies and 4,500 locations in the U.S. and abroad.

In an opening statement, Torres Small spoke of her New Mexico farming roots, also saying she sees the position as part manager, part departmental ambassador. Saying she’d be a proud representative of the department, Torres Small also referenced her prior role in elected politics, winning New Mexico’s Congressional District 2 seat in 2018, then losing reelection in 2020.

“I know that you can’t please everyone all of the time, but I’m not only familiar with what its like to grapple with multiple views, I truly believe that that difference of opinion is what makes our country stronger,” Torres Small said. “It allows us to find better solutions, and it allows us to find way forward that will last the test of time.”

On Twitter, the committee’s Democratic-controlled leadership in part spoke of the USDA facing “unprecedented challenges, like tackling the climate crisis and helping farmers manage geopolitical risks.” Highlighting Torres, the Democratic committee members tweeted that Torres has “strong roots in the agricultural community. The granddaughter of farmworkers, she grew up in the borderlands of New Mexico and understands both the virtues of, and the challenges faced by, our rural communities.”

While signaling support for the nomination, Republican Ranking Member Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) urged Torres Small to “provide leadership to USDA’s appointed officials and the career agency heads and create a culture of accountability,” in part noting a “lack of transparency about USDA’s spending” and “lack of accountability.” Sen. Boozman urged a change to the USDA’s “culture.”

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) spoke of what she viewed as “strong bipartisan support for moving [Torres Small] forward” to the deputy secretary role. The full hearing is available to view online at this link.

If confirmed, Torres Small’s appointment would represent the second New Mexican to take a high-profile cabinet agency position in the Biden Administration. A member of the Laguna Pueblo and UNM grad, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was sworn into office in March 2021 under the Biden Administration.