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USDA will establish an Equity Commission

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will establish an Equity Commission and is requesting nominations for membership on the Equity Commission Advisory Committee and Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture.

The notice is a step in the direction of implementing President Biden’s commitment to create an Equity Commission and the American Rescue Plan Act provision that directs USDA to “address historical discrimination and disparities in the agriculture sector… [through] one or more equity commissions to address racial equity issues within USDA and its programs.”

“USDA is committed to advancing equity throughout our Department,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Equity Commission is an important step in dismantling barriers historically underserved communities have faced in accessing USDA programs and services, especially with regard to access and inclusion in USDA agricultural programs and services.”

The Equity Commission will advise the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying USDA programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health and social disparities. The Subcommittee on Agriculture will be formed concurrently and will report back to the Equity Commission and provide recommendations on issues of concern related to agriculture. Subsequent subcommittees will focus on other policy areas, such as rural community and economic development. 

USDA is soliciting nominations to consider membership on both the Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture. Both seek to reflect a diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise. The Equity Commission and Subcommittee on Agriculture will require substantial representation from those whose mission is to serve or advocate for underserved communities, minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities, and LGBTQI+ communities. Other perspectives to capture include those from the small business community, higher education institutions, farmworker groups, and members of the American population and communities who bring their personal experiences to the discussion.

Nomination for the Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture membership is open to the public and any interested person or organization may nominate qualified individuals for membership. The Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture will each be comprised of 15 members. The Deputy and the Secretary will designate a Co-Chair to serve along with the Deputy Secretary as co-chairs of the Equity Commission.

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