USDA Equity Commission Releases 2023 Interim Report

U.S. Department of AgricultureImage via USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Equity Commission recently presented its 2023 Interim Report to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Since its launch in February 2022, the USDA Equity Commission, which is comprised of independent members from diverse backgrounds who have a personal or professional interest in USDA’s mission and services, has been working to identify how changes to USDA programs, policies, systems and practices can help lift barriers to inclusion or access and address systemic discrimination or racial, economic, health and social disparities.

The report is informed by the work of the Commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture. It identifies a wide-ranging set of recommendations for ways USDA’s headquarters operations, field offices across the country, and its various program areas can make changes to better serve the unique needs of the Department’s many and diverse stakeholders. The Equity Commission will publish a Final Report, which will also include recommendations from its Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, by the end of 2023.

“This important and insightful report from the Equity Commission will be invaluable to me and USDA staff as we continue to make the People’s Department one that lifts up everyone we serve, not just a few,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is committed to turning the tide and ensuring those who seek access to land, capital, markets, nutrition assistance and agriculture education and experience can do so, regardless of their background. We’re confident the work of the Equity Commission will bolster our efforts to realize lasting change at USDA and are grateful to the members for taking on this work.”

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Authorized and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Equity Commission is an important component of the Department’s and President Biden’s vision to Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.

In addition to publicizing the report, USDA shared with the Commission and with the public an update on steps it has taken under Secretary Vilsack’s direction to improve equity and access and eliminate barriers to its programs for underserved individuals and communities. The report will inform USDA’s and the Equity Commission’s ongoing dialogue as the full 2023 report is finalized. Both documents can be accessed at, where USDA will continue to share updates on its progress.

“The Equity Commission’s recommendations address issues that are not new to USDA, but they do require a renewed commitment to improve access to programs and services for all stakeholders and communities, inclusive of people of color, farm workers, women, Tribal and Indigenous communities, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities, and LGBTQI+ communities,” said Arturo S. Rodriguez, co-chair of the Equity Commission and United Farm Workers President Emeritus. “USDA has committed to reviewing the recommendations and identifying requirements for implementation, and we look forward to seeing continued progress and lasting change that will benefit all its customers.”

The Commission’s 37-page report and its findings are based on the personal experiences and expertise of its members, their collaborative and in-depth review of USDA’s programs and practices, and stakeholder input solicited through a series of four public meetings. Examples of the recommendations include, but are not limited to, offering new sources of capital to owners of heirs’ property and fractionated land, as well as steps to prevent the creation of these types of property to reduce barriers to USDA programs in the future; making USDA’s County Committees, which are an important mechanism for connecting USDA’s programs with farm communities, more equitable, representative, accountable and transparent; and improving language access for linguistically and culturally diverse communities trying to access USDA programs and services.

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These recommendations were introduced by the Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee and voted on at the Commission’s most recent public meeting in early February.

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