In support of Executive Order 13985 Advancing Racial Equity and Support to Underserved Communities, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made its Equity Action Plan (PDF, 500 KB) publicly available. The plan outlines actions USDA will take to advance programmatic equity to improve access to programs and services for underserved stakeholders and communities.
All too often in the past, USDA programs and services were designed to benefit those with land, experience, money, and education while leaving behind those without means, resources or privilege of one kind or another. Over the course of decades, congressional reports, internal data, civil rights investigations, court actions, and stakeholder testimony have documented this long history of inequity and discrimination.
At the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA took swift actions to analyze data, consider a wide range of diverse stakeholder input, and prioritize activities that are immediately responsive to the urgent needs of those who have historically had difficulty understanding or accessing USDA’s programs and services.
“We are acknowledging USDA’s storied history and charting a new path forward,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s USDA is committed to rooting out systemic racism and advancing justice, equity, and opportunity for all. USDA’s Equity Action Plan serves as an initial roadmap for making sure our programs and services are accessible, especially to historically underserved communities and to those who need them most.”
“To maintain public trust, USDA and its staff must be keenly aware and responsive to the unique needs of historically underserved communities. USDA is a customer-centric organization with a mission-oriented workforce. USDA’s Equity Action Plan and our consistent emphasis on data-informed policy and north star of advancing equity is indicative of a renewed commitment to meaningfully addressing barriers that prevent access to USDA programs and services. Our vision is to live up to the promise of being the People’s Department,” said Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh.
To craft this Equity Action Plan, USDA first assessed and identified key challenges and opportunities through analysis of data and robust stakeholder engagement. Concurrently, USDA convened staff and leaders across USDA components to learn together and evaluate systems, practices, and policies that hinder progress. USDA Mission Areas and staff offices have identified challenges and opportunities of particular focus. The USDA Equity Action Plan highlights a set of actions USDA will take to advance equity; these particular actions are highlighted in the plan because of their potential high impact for underserved farmers and ranchers, families and children, and rural communities. Below is a summary:
1. Partner with trusted technical assistance providers
2. Reduce barriers to USDA programs and improve support to underserved farmers, ranchers, landowners, and farmworkers
3. Expand equitable access to USDA nutrition assistance programs
4. Increase USDA infrastructure investments that benefit underserved communities
5. Advance equity in federal procurement
6. Uphold Federal trust and treaty Responsibilities to Indian Tribes
7. Institutionalize an unwavering commitment to and actions towards ensuring civil rights
As USDA makes progress on the goals and actions articulated above, the Department will simultaneously partner with the Equity Commission on their future recommendations. In line with the best practices in the private and nonprofit sectors, USDA is also focused on creating an organization that systematically places diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) (PDF, 452 KB) at the center of how we support USDA’s workforce and performance. Foundational to these efforts is USDA’s commitment to upholding and advancing civil rights and tribal sovereignty. These priorities are reflected in USDA’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan (PDF, 9.6 MB).
For more information, visit www.usda.gov/equity.
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. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.