Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development: Who is Dallas Tonsager?

Monday, March 23, 2009
President Barack Obama’s choice to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development is Dallas P. Tonsager, a South Dakota farmer who was part of the Obama campaign, and has been a generous supporter of the Democratic Party. However, he also received an appointment from George W. Bush.
 
Tonsager, 54, grew up on a dairy farm near Oldham, SD. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in 1976.
 
From 1988 to 1993, Tonsager was a board member of Green Thumb, Inc., a nationwide job training program for senior citizens. During that same period, he served two terms as president of the South Dakota Farmers Union. He also served on the board of National Farmers Union Insurance from 1989 to 1993, and he was a member of the advisory board of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1990 to 1993.
 
In 1993, President Bill Clinton selected Tonsager to serve as South Dakota’s state director for rural development for the US Department of Agriculture. Tonsager oversaw a diversified portfolio of housing, business, and infrastructure loans in South Dakota totaling more than $100 million. His term concluded in February 2001.
 
As executive director of the South Dakota Value-Added Agriculture Development Center in Huron from 2002-2004, he coordinated initiatives to increase the economic value and consumer appeal of agricultural products.
 
Tonsager was appointed to the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation (FCSIC) board by President George W. Bush on December 1, 2004, for a term that expires May 21, 2010. The FCSIC, an independent US government corporation, is responsible for ensuring the payment of principal and interest on insured notes, bonds, debentures, and other obligations issued on behalf of Farm Credit System banks. The system is a nationwide financial cooperative that lends to agriculture and rural America. Tonsager was also appointed in 2004 to the board of directors of the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), which is responsible for the regulation and examination of the Farm Credit System.
 
During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Tonsager served as national co-chairman of the rural advisory committee. According to OpenSecrets.org, he has contributed $22,250 to Democratic candidates and party organizations since 1993, including $1,000 to Obama.
 
In partnership with his brother, Tonsager owns Plainview Farm in Oldham, a family farming operation that includes corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay. He previously served as owner of Golden Plains Ventures and Tonsager Consulting. He currently serves on the board of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota.
 
Tonsager and his wife, Sharon, have two sons.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 

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