08 April 2022, US: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it will establish a Rural Community Economic Development (RCED) Subcommittee as part of the recently launched Equity Commission. Nominations and applications for membership to the RCED Subcommittee are due on May 6.
The Federal Register Notice is another important step towards fully implementing President Biden’s commitment to create an Equity Commission and the American Rescue Plan Act provision that directs USDA to “address historical discrimination and disparities in the agriculture sector… [through] one or more equity commissions to address racial equity issues within USDA and its programs.”
“The Rural Community Economic Subcommittee (RCED) will be crucial to addressing issues of persistent poverty in rural communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are committed to giving each recommendation the Equity Commission makes full consideration in an effort to implement systemic, lasting change. This work is long overdue and will set the foundation for generations to come.”
“USDA’s Equity Commission has hit the ground running since it first convened in February,” said Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, who serves as Co-Chair of the Equity Commission. “The work of this subcommittee will be invaluable to the commission as we seek to provide recommendations on how underserved rural communities can obtain equity access to USDA programs. I am hopeful that the work of this commission and subcommittee will identify ways to break down barriers and increase the public’s access to, and trust in, USDA’s programs and services.”
The Equity Commission will advise the Secretary of Agriculture 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. The Subcommittee on Agriculture was formed concurrently and will report back to the Equity Commission and provide recommendations on issues of concern related to agriculture. This new RCED Subcommittee will be charged with providing recommendations on issues and concerns related to rural development, persistent poverty, and underserved communities. The Equity Commission will deliver an interim report and provide actionable recommendations by September 2022. A final report will be generated by the summer of 2023.
USDA is soliciting nominations for membership to the RCED Subcommittee. The subcommittee will reflect a diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise. The RCED Subcommittee will require substantial representation from those whose mission it is to serve or advocate for underserved communities, minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities, and LGBTQI+ communities. Other perspectives to capture include those from community-based organizations, lending institutions, small business or cooperatives, tribal entities, university or community college or trades personnel, and members of the American population and communities who bring their personal experiences to the discussion.
Nominations for the RCED Subcommittee membership are open to the public and any interested person or organization may nominate qualified individuals for membership. Individuals who submitted applications as part of the initial call for applications for the Equity Commission and Agriculture Subcommittee do not need to reapply, those applications will still be considered for the RCED. The subcommittee will be comprised of 15 members, two of which will be members of the already formed Equity Commission. More information is available in the Federal Register Notice.
President Biden signed an Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government and committed to creating an Equity Commission as part of his rural agenda and commitment to closing the racial wealth gap and addressing longstanding inequities in agriculture. Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan directed USDA to create the Equity Commission and funded the effort along with an additional $1 billion in funding to support forward-looking activities that will advance equity and opportunity for historically underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. The funding will be used to remove gaps that currently exist in USDA program benefits, improve access to resources, and restore trust and confidence in the Department for groups that have not had equal access to such resources through a combination of grants, loans, pilot programs, technical assistance, cooperative agreements, and more.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.