Jim Fitzgerald, who has headed the federal government’s key farm support efforts in Washington state for the Bush Administration, has been appointed to a higher profile job in Washington, D.C.
As chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency, Fitzgerald will now oversee the day-to-day operations of an agency with 7,000 employees. He had been the state executive director of the Farm Service Agency since 2001.
The appointment announced Monday requires Fitzgerald to move from his home outside Cheney.
He was out of town and unavailable for comment Monday. In a press release, he said he looked forward to the job.
He singled out renewable energy as a bright spot for farm country.
Rural Development is set up to boost economic opportunities small towns across the country. In 2006, the agency will invest $17 billion through loans and grants to rural communities. During the past six years, it has invested $63 billion toward home ownership, business development and technology projects that are otherwise difficult for small towns to afford.
Fitzgerald will report directly to Thomas Dorr, undersecretary for Rural Development.
Prior to his political appointment as FSA state executive director, Fitzgerald grew wheat and raised cattle on his family’s land outside Clarkston. The Washington State University graduate also worked for Federal Land Bank offices in Chehalis, Wash., and Lewiston.
At the Farm Service Agency, Fitzgerald oversaw the federal government’s subsidy programs that have helped keep wheat farmers viable.