Biden appoints Navajo environmental leaders to top role in Arizona agriculture

The White House this week announced a list of key appointments at the US Department of Agriculture and Shepherd in Ginger Sykes Torres to oversee Farm Services in Arizona.

“I appreciate President Biden’s confidence in me to represent the administration in carrying out the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency programs in Arizona,” Sykes Torres said in a statement to AL DÍA.

Sykes Torres, a member of the Navajo Tribe, brings with her experience overseeing tribal relations a strong resume in environmental consulting and administration, experience that makes her a uniquely qualified candidate for a leadership role in the USDA.

Throughout her career, Sykes Torres – a self-proclaimed “400th Generation Arizonan” – has dedicated her expertise to bridging complex environmental and sustainability issues.

“Here at USDA, we are grateful to have such a talented group of people leading our state offices,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “I look forward to the invaluable contributions each of them will bring to our department.”

Her presence on numerous committees has put Sykes Torres at the forefront of environmental issues, in line with the government’s hope to “rebuild communities hardest hit by the pandemic, economic recovery and climate change”.

“As an inscribed member of the Navajo Nation,” said Sykes Torres, “I am proud to serve in an administration committed to justice and inclusion. Removing barriers to Farm Service Agency programs, loans and partnership opportunities for underserved communities will be one of my top priorities,” she told AL DÍA.

The new government appointments have been tasked with guiding the government’s agenda, particularly on climate and racial justice, and state directors will play a central role in delivering on these priorities.

The USDA’s mission is to “serve equitably all farmers, ranchers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective and efficient agricultural programs,” according to a press release.

In Arizona, says Sykes Torres, the challenges are difficult but not insurmountable.

“Arizona’s agricultural industry faces many challenges arising from the drought and the global economy.”

The state’s dry climate has resulted in a drought marked by a string of dry years, according to a study by Arizona State University, and farmers are struggling to keep up.

The current drought is the worst Arizona has experienced in thousands of years, and the consequences have hit farmers whose reservoirs are rapidly drying up, resulting in less and less production of crops to keep up with demand.

Sykes Torres said in her statement that she will “address these difficulties head-on and be committed to achieving an economically and environmentally sound future for Arizona agriculture.”

“As someone who has worked on climate and environmental issues in the western United States for nearly two decades, I look forward to implementing Secretary Vilsack’s goals for climate-friendly agricultural solutions that improve producer profitability and resilience while leading the way will address climate change,” she continued.

In 2022, Sykes Torres ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the House District, but that didn’t stop her from continuing her commitment to climate justice and improving the ministry’s work.

Sykes Torres begins her role immediately.


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