Corn fields
Rural Development steers hundreds of millions of dollars towards economic development projects. (Photo by Malheur Enterprise)

By Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Margaret Hoffmann advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon after Joe Biden became president that she wanted to lead its Rural Development office in Oregon. 

A longtime energy consultant and adviser, Hoffmann hoped to run an office that helps direct hundreds of millions of dollars a year for rural energy conservation, broadband, job creation and other projects.

Margaret Hoffmann

At 44, Hoffmann has spent most of her career working on rural economic development. After she sent in her resume, she waited, eventually getting an interview. Two weeks ago she found out she was appointed Oregon’s state director. As director, she will earn $150,000 a year and lead a team of 35 based in Portland. 

“I am deeply humbled and honored by the opportunity,” Hoffmann told the Capital Chronicle.

She starts Jan. 31 and intends to start with a listening tour in rural areas to meet community leaders and find out how the office can make the biggest impact. 

“I plan to work across all of our programs with innovative people in the communities that we serve to understand how we can leverage our resources for the health and economic well-being for rural communities,” Hoffmann said.

Development offices are tasked with funneling federal assistance from the Agriculture Department in the form of grants, loans or technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and other businesses in rural areas. 

Last year, under interim director Jill Rees, Oregon’s Rural Development office oversaw $680 million in grants and loans to rural Oregon. 

“They have funded everything from low-income housing loans to telemedicine and telehealth programs to renewable energy projects that have helped our communities become more resilient,” Hoffmann said. “This is a huge opportunity to work with the Rural Development team here in Oregon to continue that legacy.”

A Bend resident, Hoffmann has spent the last five years helping irrigation districts modernize their systems as the strategic operations manager for the Farmers Conservation Alliance, a Hood River-based nonprofit. She also served as energy policy adviser the last two years that John Kitzhaber was governor and stayed on nearly a year under Gov. Kate Brown. In those roles, she coordinated with leaders on the ground as part of a push by the two administrations towards a lower-carbon future.

She holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in English literature from Lewis and Clark College in Portland.

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