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New Mexico State Summit

Speaker Bios

mike beatty

Mike Beatty, Director, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagment

Mike Beatty joined USDA as Director of the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in November 2018.  In this capacity, Mike leads the department's efforts to develop and maintain partnerships focused on solutions to challenges facing rural and underserved communities in the United States, and connects those communities to the education, tools, and resources available to them through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and initiatives.

Before joining USDA, Mike Beatty served as President & CEO of Great Promise Partnership, Inc. where he focused on addressing persistent poverty and workforce development needs around the state of Georgia. Prior to this, he was appointed to serve as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs by Governor Sonny Perdue in June 2003 and reappointed to by Governor Nathan Deal in January 2011. Known for his leadership skills in education, business and government, Commissioner Beatty’s background provided him a unique perspective of the challenges facing local communities.

Mike has served as an educator, businessman, and state legislator within his own community. As an educator, Mr. Beatty taught history and coached football for eight years in Northeast Georgia schools. As a businessman, he and his wife Judy started and operated several small businesses, including a poultry and cattle farm. His initial government service was as an elected leader. As a state legislator, Commissioner Beatty served northeast Georgia in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. During his tenure in the Georgia General Assembly, his hard work on numerous issues was recognized by his constituents and several organizations, including the Georgia Family Council and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

jeff witee

Jeff Witte, New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture

Jeff grew up on his family’s ranch on the Rowe Mesa between Moriarty and Las Vegas, New Mexico. He graduated from New Mexico State University (NMSU) with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management and a master’s degree in agricultural economics.

Jeff was named New Mexico’s fifth permanent Director/Secretary of Agriculture in May 2011. The bulk of Jeff’s time as New Mexico’s secretary of agriculture is spent on the road, meeting with groups that represent farmers and ranchers across the state. He also works to educate legislators about New Mexico agriculture.

Jeff was appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a new member of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics (ACAS) in 2020. The purpose of ACAS is to advise the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statics Service on the conduct of agricultural censuses and surveys. ACAS members represent a variety of agricultural sectors across several U.S. states and districts allowing for a broad representation of perspectives on various agricultural disciplines. He will serve as an ACAS member through June of 2022. 

blake curtis Blake Curtis, State Director, USDA Rural Development (RD)

Blake Curtis, a fourth generation New Mexican, was born in 1958 and was raised on the same Forest, New Mexico ranch where his ancestors homesteaded in the early 1900s.  Blake attended school in Melrose, New Mexico and graduated in 1976.  He and his wife, Terri, married shortly thereafter and began a family while simultaneously pursuing training in language and multicultural preparation at the Universidad Interamericana in Mexico from the fall of 1976 to the spring of 1977.  At that time, they returned to New Mexico where Blake attended New Mexico State University.  He eventually completed his BBA degree at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.

Blake has served in various roles, including that of senior Vice-president at Curtis and Curtis, Inc., a successful, family-owned, agriculturally based business in eastern New Mexico.  He has also been politically active over the course of his lifetime, serving as New Mexico State Legislator from 1986-1995, contributing as Minority Caucus Chair, Minority Whip, and Minority Leader.  Afterwards, he was appointed and served on the New Mexico Fair Commission from 1995-2001 and joined the New Mexico State University Board of Regents in 2006.  As a board member, Blake served as Secretary, vice-chair, and Chair.  Social and cultural service roles include being a board member and Chair of the Clovis Curry County Balloon Fiesta Committee and President of the Clovis Curry County Chamber of Commerce.  Additionally, Blake was a gubernatorial appointed board member of the New Mexico Finance Authority, served on the American Seed Trade Association Board as the Southern Regional Vice-president, First Vice-chairman, and Chairman.  He also served as the President of the New Mexico State Seed Association.

michael white Michael White, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Michael White was appointed by the Trump Administration to serve as the state executive director of the New Mexico USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in November 2017. White grew up on a dairy and farming operation in Pecos Valley, New Mexico. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from New Mexico State University in 1976. 

Prior to his appointment, White worked in the Farm Credit system for nine years as a loan officer. He has been owned and operated his farm for over 30 years, growing corn, alfalfa, chile, cotton, sorghum, and winter wheat. He also grazes sheep and cattle on winter pastures. 

White served as the president of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau for 14 years. In this role, he represented the organization on the Farm Bureau Financial Services Insurance Boards. He was also a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation Board, Executive Committee and the International Trade Committee. He’s a member of the Cotton Advisory Committee at New Mexico State University and served as an alternate to the National Cotton Board.

White also served for 12 years on the Dexter Consolidated School Board and was on the board of directors for the Albuquerque Production Credit Association.

xavier montoya Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

J. Xavier Montoya became the State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in New Mexico on January 29, 2012.

Mr. Montoya began his career as a co-op student in the Albuquerque field office in New Mexico, and then at various NRCS locations throughout the state.

After graduating New Mexico State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Range Science, Mr. Montoya accepted an assignment as the Rangeland Management Specialist for the Navajo Nation Team at the NRCS Window Rock field office in Arizona.  A few years later, he accepted a position as the NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist in Lordsburg, NM before returning to Arizona as the District Conservationist (DC) in the Douglas field office. At the Douglas field office, he accepted collateral duty assignments, serving as the Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager (HEPM) for both Arizona and the NRCS West Region. 

In November 2000, he was selected as the National HEPM for NRCS and moved to the NRCS National Headquarters (NHQ) in Washington, D.C.  where he worked to help increase the representation of Hispanics and minorities in the Department of Agriculture.

In October 2002, he served an extended detail as Resource Conservationist on the Technical Service Provider Group at the NHQ where he helped with policy review, developing Memorandums of Understanding for recommending organizations and conveying and clarifying information relevant to those national organizations affected by the new process, such as the Society for Range Management, Land Improvement Contractors of America, American Society of Agronomy, The Wildlife Society, and Society of American Foresters.

ray melton Ray Melton, Program Director for Business and Cooperative Programs, USDA Rural Development

Ray Melton is a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in marketing and economics.  He is also a graduate of the Western States School of Banking from the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico.  Ray has worked as a commercial loan officer in the banking industry with fourteen years of banking experience and worked for the Farm Credit Services for eight years.  He has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for twelve years and was promoted to Program Director for the Business and Cooperative Programs in 2019.  Ray lives and works in Roswell, New Mexico.

brian smith

Brian Smith, Telecom General Field Representative, Rural Development

Brian Smith is a General Field Representative for the Rural Utilities Service and is based in Goodyear, Arizona. He covers the states of Arizona and New Mexico.  He has worked for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) since 2013 and been with Rural Development since 2009.  Mr. Smith is responsible for field support and oversight for loans and grants in his geographic area.

leann gibbs LeAnn Gibbs, Farm Loan Chief, Farm Service Agency

LeAnn Gibbs is the Farm Loan Chief for the Farm Service Agency.  She has worked for the Farm Service Agency for over 19 years.  Prior to coming to the FSA, LeAnn worked for nearly 20 years in the commercial banking industry where she worked for various banks in both West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.  She was born and raised on a farm in West Texas where her family raised cotton, wheat and cattle.

She holds Bachelor of Business Administration degrees in both Finance and Business Administration from Eastern New Mexico University.  After earning her degrees, she began her career with the Farm Service Agency where she worked as a Farm Loan Officer in the Clovis Service Center for nearly 10 years.  She then spent over 4 years in the FSA State Office in Albuquerque as the Farm Loan Specialist.  LeAnn was promoted to her current position as Farm Loan Chief in May 2015, where she oversees and administers the FSA Farm Loan Program for the State of New Mexico.

joilynn grey Joilynn Gray, Farm Program Chief, Farm Service Agency

Joilynn Gray is the Farm Program Chief for the Farm Service Agency, in New Mexico.  She has worked for the agency for over 21 years.  She is a New Mexico native, born and raised, 30 miles south of Albuquerque, in Belen, New Mexico.

She holds two Associate’s degrees (MicroComputer Management and Pre-Management), from the former Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute and a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems from the University of New Mexico (UNM).  She earned her bachelor’s degree while building her career with the Farm Service Agency.  She started her FSA chapter in 1999, where she worked as a Program Technician for five years, in the Valencia-Cibola County FSA Office; 16 years as an Agricultural Program Specialist in the New Mexico FSA State Office; and currently the Farm Program Chief where she oversees and administers the FSA Farm Program for the State of New Mexico.

kristen graham chavez Kristin Graham Chavez, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Development, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Kris has worked for USDA - NRCS for over 30 years in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Some of her NRCS past responsibilities and contributions include district conservationist in several field offices, resource conservationist on the Area Office, Operations and Programs staff.  She also served on the regional conservationist’s staff, from Washington DC and worked on numerous audit teams.  She provides technical and programmatic assistance to field, area and state office personnel as well as partners throughout New Mexico.

She began her career as a student coop trainee in New Mexico, while pursuing her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Agriculture from New Mexico State University. Kris grew up on a ranch in Taos and Black Lake, New Mexico.

john d'antonio John D’Antonio, PE, New Mexico State Engineer

John R. D’Antonio Jr, New Mexico State Engineer John D’Antonio is a registered professional engineer in New Mexico with a BSCE from the UNM. He has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a hydraulic design engineer and as a project manager for MILCON and Civil Works projects. Recruited as a Water Resources Manager for the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) in 1998, D’Antonio managed the largest District OSE Office for the next three years. From 2001 to 2011, he served as Director of the Water Resource Allocation Program (OSE), Cabinet Secretary of the NM Environment Dept, and NM State Engineer/Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission. During his tenure as State Engineer, D’Antonio was Secretary of the ISC, Chairman of the Water Trust Board, the Governor’s Water Infrastructure Investment Team, and the Governor’s Drought Task Force. He also served as the NM Commissioner to the Rio Grande, Costilla, and Upper Colorado River Compacts.

gabe moya Gabe Moya, Regional Financial Consultant, Farm Bureau Financial Services

Gabe Moya has been in the insurance industry since 2006. He began his career as a Farm Bureau Agent and as a Regional Financial Consultant he specializes in financial strategies such as Estate Planning, Retirement Funding, Wealth Management, Taxation, College Funding, Tax Free Income Strategies, etc. 

Throughout his career Gabe has been named agent of the year multiple times and has earned qualification to join the Million Dollar Round Table “The premier association of financial professionals.”

Gabe is from originally from Las Cruces and hails himself a “Proud NMSU Aggie.”  He is happily married to his lovely wife Krystal and they have been blessed with 7 children.  Away from the business, he enjoys playing and coaching baseball, golfing, horseback riding and spending time with family and friends.

benita litson Benita Litson, Director, Land Grant Office, Diné College

Benita Litson is of the Diné People (Navajo). She has worked on developing several Native American Agricultural programs while employed as the Dine College Land Grant Office Director for the past 16 years. Programs include encouraging farmers to improve their existing farm or ranch operation through informal extension education and assisting them with hands –on approach to implementing new techniques. Most importantly, working with other collaborators on creating a Navajo Food Sovereignty Policy that meet the needs of local growers. Additionally, working with producers on understanding their obligation as a food producer and meeting food safety guidelines.

richard coffel Richard Coffel, Director, Veterans Business Opportunity Center

Rich is the Director of the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center where he helps veterans who want to start or expand their business. Rich counsels veterans, assist with business and marketing plans, and other aspects of business planning and startup.  He also travels throughout the state performing workshops and counseling sessions.  Rich had been the Veterans Business Advisor prior to assuming the role of Director.  He comes to DVS from the New Mexico Workforce Connection where he was a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program specialist and a Local Veterans Employment Representative. The Gary, Indiana native served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force and is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.  He served over 18 years in the Pacific Theater of Operations with part of his career being in the Special Operations community.  Rich has an MBA from the University of Phoenix and has owned his own business in Japan and two in New Mexico, as well as managed a business for his wife. 

john boren Dr. Jon Boren, Associate Dean and Director, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service

Dr. Jon Boren is Associate Dean and Director for the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University.  The mission of the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service is to provide the people of New Mexico with practical, research-based knowledge and programs to improve their quality of life.  The non-formal educational programs that extend the knowledge of the land-grant university system by the Cooperative Extension Service, reach over 650,000 New Mexicans annually.  Dr. Boren earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife ecology and his doctorate in range science from Oklahoma State University, before coming to New Mexico State University in 1996 as an assistant professor and Extension wildlife specialist.  He has investigated wildlife and livestock interactions through scientific studies on rangelands and forests in New Mexico, developed innovative and cost effective methods to cope with problems from wildlife damage, and developed teaching materials to use in natural resource educational curriculum and conduct educational programs for youth in 4-H, FFA and the public school system. 

michael patrick Dr. Michael Patrick

Michael Patrick is an Associate Professor in the Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business Department, Director of the Doctorate of Economic Development program, and Community Resource & Economic Development Specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service at New Mexico State University.

He received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; M.S. in Community Development from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; and Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University.

Dr. Patrick's areas of expertise are community economic development, rural development, business development and entrepreneurship. Patrick has over 20 years of teaching, research, and community economic development activity in the U.S.- Mexico border region and Latin America.

rachel welborn Rachel Welborn

Rachel Welborn is Associate Director for the Southern Rural Development Center.  She has over 30 years of grant-writing experience in areas related to community development.