Department Of Agriculture Releases ‘Equity’ Plan For Farming

(Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

James Lynch Contributor
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The “Equity” Commission at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled an interim report Tuesday with 32 recommendations for the agency to advance “equity” in farming.

The commission’s recommendations address the USDA’s research programs, nutrition programs, commitment to farmworkers, department-wide change and how the agency works with farmers, ranchers and producers on a day-to-day basis. Outgoing Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and United Farm Workers President Emeritus Arturo Rodriguez led the Equity Commission’s report.

“We didn’t want this set of interim recommendations to look like things we’ve seen in previous reports,” Bronaugh said Tuesday, NPR reported. “We wanted to get at systemic change.” (RELATED: School Districts Are Dropping Honors Classes In The Name Of Equity)

Its policy suggestions include specific measures to institutionalize equity within the agency, provide more funding to non profit organizations working with farmers, simplify its loan application process, improve access to capital for underserved communities, require diversity training in certain agency committees and support congressional legislation to remove food stamp restrictions.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 directing the federal government to advance “racial equity” and support underserved communities. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan legislation passed in March 2021 directed the USDA to create the commission and provide it with adequate funding.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to the commission’s report with a letter and an extended response to the committee’s proposals.

“While this is a subset of many bold actions that we will seek to implement, they establish the foundation upon which USDA will build a more just and equitable farm and food system. USDA will institutionalize these strategies to become an organization that is trusted today and by future generations,” Vilsack said.