Dallas Tonsager was appointed by President Obama as Under Secretary for Rural Development and sworn into office in May of 2009. Tonsager has over 35 years of agricultural, business, cooperative and financial experience through his work as a farmer, businessman, and community, state and national leader.
Prior to joining USDA, Tonsager served from 2004 to 2009 on the board of directors for the Farm Credit Administration. As one of three board members, Tonsager was responsible for regulatory oversight of the Farm Credit System, which provides approximately one-third of the agricultural credit in the United States. During his tenure as a board member of the Farm Credit Administration, Mr. Tonsager supported passage of a new authority, which allowed Farm Credit System institutions to invest in rural communities across America. Among the many benefits provided by this authority was that it also opened a way for the System to provide funding for critical access hospitals in rural America.
Tonsager served as the executive director of the South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center from 2002 to 2004, leading efforts to develop farmer-owned agricultural facilities, such as ethanol, to increase economic value and consumer appeal of agricultural products. The center is composed of 18 farm and rural business organizations, and provides project management, feasibility assessment, business planning, education, funding access, research and networking assistance.
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton selected Tonsager to serve as USDA South Dakota state director for Rural Development. In 1999, he was recognized as one of two outstanding state directors in the nation and received the national Hammer Award from then-Vice President Gore for his work as part of a team that reinvented USDA rural business guarantee loan program. Tonsager served as state director until 2001.
Tonsager 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 was a member of the advisory board of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1990 to 1993.
Tonsager grew up on a dairy farm near Oldham, S.D. and has been involved in the family diversified farm operations since 1976. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture in 1976. Tonsager and his wife, Sharon, have two sons.
Rural Development has a network of 6,100 employees and 500 offices, a portfolio of business, housing, and infrastructure loans totaling $132 billion, and provides an estimated $20 billion annually to support economic and community development in rural America.