Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the appointment of Benjamin Higgins as state director for USDA Rural Development in California.

“Ben Higgins will make a great addition to President Bush's leadership team,” said Johanns. “He has worked in the cattle industry and has a background in agriculture. I'm confident Ben will do a tremendous job leading our development efforts in California.”

Johanns made the announcement while visiting with employees of USDA's Rural Development, Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices in California.

Higgins currently serves as executive vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association, a position he's held since 2002. He also served as that organization's director of public affairs. A resident of Sacramento, Higgins holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development has invested over $63 billion since the beginning of the Bush administration to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. As a result, over 1.1 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's Web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.