President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Virginia Ag Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh to be the next deputy secretary of agriculture, the second highest position at USDA. If confirmed, she would be the first woman of color to hold the position
Bronaugh, who has run the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 2018, served as Virginia state director for USDA's Farm Service Agency during the Obama administration, starting in 2015.
She also has a doctorate in career and technical education from Virginia Tech and spent time as the dean of the College of Agriculture for Virginia State University, where she oversaw extension, research, and educational programming.
USDA's deputy secretary traditionally oversees the department's day-to-day operations.
Matt Lohr, a Virginia farmer who ran USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service under the Trump administration, used a Facebook post to praise Bronaugh's selection. "America’s farmers and ranchers can be sure they have a true friend and advocate working for them in DC," he said.
The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said Bronaugh has the "background in farm services, research, and extension will bring a breadth of knowledge and experience to the department. As the first woman of color to serve in this position, she will be an important voice as the Biden administration works to address the many challenges facing our farmers, families, and rural communities. I look forward to learning more about her plans and priorities during the confirmation process."
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said "Bronaugh has been a true leader — promoting the agency’s core mission while taking on new challenges, including our COVID-19 pandemic response and farmer mental health, focusing economic development to improve food access in underserved communities, and engaging youth in the field of agriculture. I am proud that she will be representing both the Commonwealth and all Americans in such a critical role at USDA and in this new administration.”
A bio provided by the Biden transition team notes her efforts to start the Virginia Farmer Stress Task Force in 2019. The task force was “organized in partnership with agricultural and health agencies and organizations, to raise awareness and coordinate resources to address farmer stress and mental health challenges in Virginia.”
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Bronaugh has also worked to stand up the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund, a new program to address food access issues within historically marginalized communities. According to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, of which Bronaugh is a member, her time at Virginia State also included work as associate administrator for extension programs and a 4-H extension specialist, where she developed and delivered programs that addressed issues of bullying among today’s youth.
Bronaugh was one of a handful of nominees announced Monday including Elizabeth Klein, deputy director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law, as deputy interior secretary, New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg as the deputy secretary of transportation, and former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler as the pick to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Our administration will hit the ground running to deliver immediate, urgent relief to Americans; confront the overlapping crises of COVID-19, the historic economic downturn, systemic racism and inequality, and the climate crisis; and get this government working for the people it serves,” Biden said.
Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was announced in December as Biden's pick for another term as USDA chief. No date has been announced for his consideration before the Senate Ag Committee.
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