The USDA has announced the members of the newly established Equity Commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture. The Commission will hold its first public meeting on February 28, 2022. As authorized and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the launch of the independent Commission delivers on President Biden’s commitment to create an independent Equity Commission and provide it with the necessary resources to support its mission to address historical discrimination at USDA. The launch of the Commission follows the one-year anniversary of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
The 15-member commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture will provide recommendations to the Secretary on policies, programs, and actions needed to address equity issues, including racial equity issues, within the Department and its programs, including strengthening accountability and providing recommendations to the Secretary on broader and more systemic equity issues at USDA.
There are future plans to launch an additional Subcommittee focused on rural community and economic development.
“USDA acknowledges we have not done enough to provide all farmers and ranchers an equal chance of success and prosperity, and we are striving to change that,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This Commission will support our work to build a USDA that does not ignore or leave anyone behind anyone as we dismantle barriers that historically underserved communities have faced in accessing USDA programs and services.”
“We are serious about our efforts to end discrimination across all areas of the Department,” said Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, Co-Chair of the Equity Commission. “Participation by a diverse group of representatives is key to the success of the Equity Commission and for USDA to build trust among those we serve.”
The new commission members are:
- Arturo S. Rodriguez, California
- Hazell Reed, Arkansas
- Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, Washington
- Derrick Johnson, Mississippi
- Ronald Rainey, Arkansas
- Mireya Loza, District of Columbia
- Charles Rawls, Virginia
- Shorlette Ammons, North Carolina
- Poppy Sias-Hernandez, Michigan
- Todd Corley, Ohio
- Yvonne Lee, California
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Virginia
- Shirley Sherrod, Georgia
- Ertharin Cousin, Illinois
- Rick Smith, Missouri
The new agriculture subcommittee members are:
- Shari Rogge-Fidler, Illinois
- Savonala Horne, North Carolina
- Alexis Racelis, Texas
- Gina Eubanks, Louisiana
- Michelle Hughes, Virginia
- Kari Jo Lawrence, South Dakota
- PJ Haynie III, Virginia
- Russell Redding, Pennsylvania
- Janssen Hang, Minnesota
- Erica Lomeli Corcoran, California
- Sarah Vogel, North Dakota
- Gary Matteson, New Hampshire
- Jennie Stephens, South Carolina
More details on each member and about the first Equity Commission meeting can be found here.
As part of the application and selection process, USDA sought members who can share the voice and experiences of farmers, ranchers, and farmworker groups, people of color, women, Tribal and Indigenous communities, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities, and LGBTQI+ communities. Other important perspectives included those from the small business community and higher education institutions, among others.
“I want to thank everyone who invested the time and energy to submit an Equity Commission nomination. We were overwhelmed by the amount of applications we received,” said Vilsack. “I encourage all who applied and the American public to engage with the Commission and help inform discussions as it works to develop equity recommendations for USDA.”
Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and United Farm Workers President Emeritus Arturo S. Rodriguez will serve as Co-Chairs of the Commission.