Both nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Watts and Sara L. Faivre-Davis of Cameron, Texas, took the oath of office Thursday morning in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack performed the ceremony. Watts and Faivre-Davis will attend their first board meeting on Oct. 5.
"I have a lot to learn in the next few days," Watts commented.
Five directors of the 15-member board for the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Farmer Mac, are appointed by the President. Five are elected by holders of Class A Voting Common Stock, and five by holders of Class B Voting Common stock.
President Obama announced in February that he intended to nominate Watts to the board. Watts, who replaces Grace Trujillo Daniel, said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), minority leader of the Senate, recommended him for the position.
"They basically tried to find somebody with a strong background and knowledge in both finance and agriculture, and my name came up," Watts said.
The Senate confirmed Watts' appointment on Sept. 16. Watts said he will serve on the Farmer Mac board for an indefinite number of years. Farmer Mac is similar to Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae, but the government corporation is focused on agriculture. Congress created Farmer Mac to improve the availability of long-term credit for America's farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, businesses and communities.
The board generally meets six times a year in Washington, D.C., to address a variety of issues relating to lending practices and policies, Watts said. He expects the major issues coming up will deal with ag business loans.
"As close as I can tell, this organization is in much stronger shape than the Fanny Mae or Freddy Mac," Watts said of Farmer Mac. "Agriculture has done relatively well in the last several years. We don't have a lot of bad credit at the farm and ranch level. Farmer Mac is also involved with Agricultural business loans which may be affected by the recent general economic downturn."
Watts came to MSU in 1978 and served 17 years as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics. His current responsibilities include classroom teaching, research and outreach education. Watts has served in various editorial capacities for the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He has also received multiple honors and awards from professional associations, including the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Western Agricultural Economics Association.
He has advised many governments and private organizations, including large international reinsurance companies on an array of financial issues, mostly focusing on agricultural insurance. He serves on a variety of nonprofit economic education groups as a board member or in other leadership positions. His family still owns and operates the cattle and wheat ranch where he was raised in southeastern Montana.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org