U.S. Department of Agriculture Acting Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs Rudy Soto and OPPE Hispanic Serving Institutions Program Liaison Ruby De La Garza welcome HEPCAMP interns to USDA in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 1, 2023, to begin a ten-week internship at the department. (USDA photo by Tom Witham)
Rudy Soto, former Idaho State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was recently named the USDA’s acting director of external and intergovernmental affairs.
“It’s a really exciting office that I lead,” Soto said in an interview about his new position. “We are responsible for building, maintaining, establishing (and) creating relationships with external partners of the agencies.”
According to Soto, his new department’s goal is to act as a bridge for communications between a variety of agencies and external offices — as “the liaison” between the USDA Secretary and the elected and appointed officials from state, county and local governments and organizations.
“We engage with trade associations, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and facilitate engagement between our leadership here and those kinds of partners and officials,” Soto said.
Soto said that, in his new position, his goal is to improve the USDA’s communications and to build stronger relationships with state government officials across the U.S., in order to improve existing programs and the implementation of future regulations and to make sure USDA’s announcements reach the people they’re meant to reach, he said.
“So for instance, if there’s a funding announcement where we want to make sure that farmers, producers, small business owners, elected officials know about it, that we’re helping to relay that,” he said.
Even though Soto now has responsibilities spreading across all states, he says he still has a passion for Idaho’s agriculture and will continue to build relationships and to benefit Idaho’s food producers.
“I have strong relationships with the governor’s office and (Idaho’s) director of the State Department of Ag,” Soto said. “So those are the kinds of relationships that I’ll be seeking to maintain and strengthen, as well as various organizations like the Idaho Association of Counties and making sure that they are aware of important policies and opportunities that they may want to help connect the folks that they serve. (I’ll) absolutely still be working with Idaho, but just among all the other states as well.”
Soto will now be based in Washington, D.C., but owns a home in Nampa and said that he will be visiting Idaho often.
Another Idahoan steps into the director role
In the wake of Soto’s promotion, the USDA has placed the office in the hands of an Idahoan with strong rural farming roots.
Lish was most recently the deputy director and has worked for the USDA’s rural development division for more than 32 years, according to the USDA website.
“Lish is a native of Idaho and grew up on a dry farm/cow-calf operation in the southeast region of Idaho,” it says.
“He graduated from Marsh Valley High School before attending Utah State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and business.”
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