The Agriculture Department, whose programs range from crop subsidies to public nutrition, would reform its operations to assure fair treatment of everyone under the recommendations of an administration-appointed commission, delivered in a final report on Thursday. Co-chair Ertharin Cousin said the goal was “to ensure equity becomes part of the DNA as well as the culture of this great organization.”
From its top officers down to its local offices, the Agriculture Department needs to institutionalize equity in its programs and its operations, said an administration-appointed commission on Tuesday after a year-long study of the USDA. Sometimes called "the last plantation" because of racial bias in its operations, the USDA has paid $3 billion since 1999 to resolve lawsuits by Black, Native American and Hispanic farmers.
Jewel Bronaugh, the first Black person to serve as Agriculture deputy secretary, said on Thursday that she would leave the USDA at the end of February “so I can spend more time with my family.” Bronaugh, who oversees the USDA’s day-to-day operations, would be the first high-level Biden appointee to depart the agency.
The congressionally approved Equity Commission that will address racial discrimination at the USDA will have Arturo Rodriguez, former president of the United Farm Workers union, as one of its leaders, announced the Agriculture Department on Thursday.
After referring to USDA's self-admitted history of racial discrimination, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a 15-member Equity Commission would try "to prevent wrongs in the future." The commission met for the first time on Monday, the final day of Black History Month.