NFBC's look at the USDA Equity Commission report and USDA's Response
A commission tasked with tasked with identifying systemic discrimination and promoting equity among U.S. Department of Agriculture programs presented its interim recommendations to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on March 7. The 15-member independent Equity Commission evaluated USDA programs and services and recommended opportunities to reduce barriers for accessing them. Native Farm Bill Coalition co-Chair Kari Jo Lawrence, who is also executive director for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, sat on the commission.
“I’m proud of this department. I suspect every federal agency has had its own history in terms of discrimination. But this is a department that has been willing to begin the process of open itself up to review,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said to media at the announcement ceremony. “We’re not fearful of having things pointed out to us … we’re anxious to get better.”
The USDA Equity Commission put forth its interim recommendations in a full report that noted its work was guided by USDA’s commitment to equity – a direct result of President Biden’s January 2021 Executive Order 13985 On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The Equity Commission held four public meetings where input was gathered through written and oral comments. These were shared with members of the Equity Commission for their consideration and are posted on the Equity Commission website.
In response, USDA released its own report responding to the Equity Commission’s recommendations. Those responses, and their comparisons with Native Farm Bill Coalition priorities laid out in the Gaining Ground report can be found below. Click the box below to download.