The Agriculture Department is seeking members for an advisory panel on equity as it attempts to address long-standing barriers minorities have faced in accessing federal farm programs.

Specifically, USDA is seeking nominations for an Equity Commission Advisory Committee and an agriculture subcommittee, both of which will have 15 members. The commission will deliver an interim report “and provide actionable recommendations no later than 12 months after inception,” USDA said, with a final report due within two years.

The 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,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.

USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh said the department is “serious about our efforts to end discrimination across all areas of the department and to improving access to services for key stakeholders.” Bronaugh will serve as co-chair of the commission, and she and Vilsack will appoint the other co-chair.

The American Rescue Plan directed USDA to set up an equity commission, Bronaugh noted, adding, “We understand the importance of involving the public in this process of continuing to build trust among our customers and ensure fair and equitable programming, benefits, and services.”

Interested in more coverage and insights? Receive a free month of Agri-Pulse West  

The commission will advise Vilsack “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.”

House Ag Committee Chair David Scott, D-Ga., welcomed the news. 

For too long, discriminatory practices have been allowed at all levels of the Department," he said in a statement. Today’s announcement of an Equity Commission to remedy inequalities in any program, policy, system, structure or practice at USDA is a step in the right direction.”

The majority of the subcommittee on agriculture members “should represent historically underserved populations or communities,” the Federal Register notice seeking nominations said. Nominations are due 30 days after the notice appears in the Register on Sept, 27.

For more news, go to