Former United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez will co-chair USDA's newly formed equity commission, part of an effort by the Biden administration to address historical discrimination at the department. 

The commission, which was authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act signed in early 2021, will comprise 15 economists, legal experts and industry group leaders from across the country, USDA saidDeputy Ag Secretary Jewel Bronaugh will co-chair the commission with Rodriguez. Other members include Hazell Reed, executive director of the National Black Growers Council; Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Rick Smith, president and CEO of the Dairy Farmers of America.

The commission will be accompanied by an agriculture subcommittee composed of an additional 15 members. 

The announcement follows a nomination process USDA began in September 2021.

USDA said the commission will provide recommendations 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.” 

Looking for the best, most comprehensive and balanced news source in agriculture? Our Agri-Pulse editors don't miss a beat! Sign up for a free month-long subscription.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. 

“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,” he said. 

USDA said it plans to launch an additional subcommittee on rural community and economic development in the future.

The commission will have its first public meeting Feb. 28. 

For more news, go to