USDA can only succeed in its mission to help America thrive—and can only live up to President Lincoln's description of it as the "People's Department"—if it ensures that the Americans who need its services most receive them. Equity is not an add-on or extra; it is central to the Department’s mission (PDF, 9.6 MB):
"To serve all Americans by providing effective, innovative, science-based public policy leadership in agriculture, food and nutrition, natural resource protection and management, rural development, and related issues with a commitment to deliverable equitable and climate-smart opportunities that inspire and help America thrive."
Breaking Equity News and Events
USDA Releases Language Access Plan (November 15, 2023)
- Press Release: USDA Releases Language Access Plan to Expand Access to Department Resources and Programs
- Language Access
- Memorandum for Heads of Federal Agencies, Heads of Civil Rights Offices, and General Counsels
Two Year Anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at USDA (Nov. 15, 2023)
- Press Release: FACT SHEET: Year Two of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at USDA
- Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
USDA Invests More Than $1.2 Billion in Cooperatives for Opportunity and Equity (Nov. 9, 2023)
- Press Release: Biden-Harris Administration Invests More Than $1.2 Billion in Rural Cooperatives to Increase Economic Opportunity and Advance Equity in Rural America
- USDA Rural Development National Cooperative Month
- Programs by State
USDA Announces Resources to Empower Native American Young People (Nov. 6, 2023)
- Press Release: At White House Tribal Youth Summit, USDA Announces New Resources to Empower Native American Young People
- Sovereignty Gardens
- Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative
- The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program
- AmeriCorps NCCC Forest Corps
USDA invests in rural communities with over $5 billion during Biden’s Investing in Rural America Event Series (Nov. 1, 2023)
- Press Release: President Biden Announces Over $5 Billion to Support Rural Communities During Investing in Rural America Event Series
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- Rural Jobs and Infrastructure
- Rural Partners Network (RPN)
- ReConnect Loan and Grant Program
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
USDA’s Equity Commission concludes sixth public meeting to improve equity and eliminate barriers to programs and services (Oct. 27, 2023)
- Press Release: USDA’s Equity Commission Concludes Sixth Public Meeting to Improve Equity and Eliminate Barriers to Programs and Services
- Learn more about the Equity Commission: Advancing Equity at USDA
- Read the Interim Report 2023 (PDF, 1.2 MB) & Spanish Interim Report 2023 (PDF, 1.3 MB)
Applications now open for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act)
- Deadline extended: USDA Extends Application Deadline for Discrimination Financial Assistance Program to January 13 (Sept. 22, 2023)
- Press Release: Financial Assistance Application Process Opens for USDA Farm Loan Borrowers Who Have Faced Discrimination (July 7, 2023)
- Website and How to Apply: Discrimination Financial Assistance Program Home (22007apply.gov)
- Protect Yourself From Potential Scams: Avoid Scams Related to USDA Financial Assistance for Farmers Facing Discrimination
Progress on funds for financially distressed borrowers (Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act). Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law by President Biden in August 2022, USDA has provided approximately $1.15 billion in assistance to more than 20,000 distressed borrowers as a part of an ongoing effort to keep borrowers farming, remove obstacles that currently prevent many borrowers from returning to their land, and improve the way that USDA approaches borrowing and loan servicing in the long-term.
- Additional assistance announced August 11, 2023 for qualifying guaranteed loan borrowers facing financial risk
- FSA continues to accept and review individual direct loan borrower requests for cash flow-based assistance and assistance for borrowers who took extraordinary measures to avoid delinquency on their qualifying direct FLP loans
- Prior assistance: October 2022 ($800 million) & May 2023 ($130 million)
USDA Agencies and Offices post 2023 Equity Action Plans
- 2023 Equity Action Plans
- Deputy Secretary Torres-Small’s blogpost: USDA Mission Areas, Agencies, and Offices’ Equity Action Plans Are Making Progress
Making Equity a Priority
EQUITY IS: the consistent and systematic treatment of all individuals in a fair, just, and impartial manner, including individuals who belong to communities that often have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander persons and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; women and girls; LGBTQI+ persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; persons who live in United States Territories; persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality; and individuals who belong to multiple such communities.
IT MEANS RECOGNIZING: people’s frustrations run deep and are rooted in their own daily battles—to make ends meet, to maintain their land, to put food on their tables, and to give their children a shot at economic opportunity. Gaps in access to USDA programs challenge the very core of who we are as a Department. That’s why USDA is making equity a priority.
FROM CONCEPT TO ACTION: USDA has mobilized, department-wide, to remove barriers to access to our programs and services for all Americans, including ensuring USDA resources reach underserved communities and those with the most need. This page shows how.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spent time with the 30 Students from Eastern and Western Tribes, Southeast Alaska, and Tuba City, Arizona planting vegetable seeds that are indigenous to North America.
Agriculture Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small, left, announced that USDA is investing $102 million to expand access to housing and water infrastructure for socially disadvantaged rural people who live and work in 45 states and American Samoa, during a visit to Siesta Shores and Falcon Lake in Zapata Co., TX.
USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux is presented with Sweet Grass by Kipp Family during honoring ceremony before meeting with members of the Blackfeet Extension Stockgrowers/PHLI/Ag Producers to listen to their concerns and discuss solution they are working on to help during a meeting.
Acting Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kevin Shea welcomes students from the National 4-H conference to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics Sanah Baig, Acting Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kevin Shea and U.S. National Institute of Food and Agriculture Director Dr. Dionne Toombs welcome students from the National 4-H conference to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Rachel Levine and Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean visited Watkins ES in Washington, D.C. in recognition of National Nutrition Month.
USDA Agricultural Research Service Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young (center) visits with scientists and engineers participating in the “Meet the Scientists and Engineers Program,” during the 4th USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington D.C.
Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt greets a vendor at the USDA Farmer's Market.
Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics Sanah Baig meets with Max Finberg, Growing Hope Globally as USDA resumes hosting its annual Ramadan Iftar Celebration.
Strategy for Impact
In response to Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, and Executive Order 14091, Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, USDA has adopted department-wide strategies to advance equity:
- Reduce barriers to USDA programs.
- Partner with trusted technical assistance providers.
- Direct USDA programs to those who need them the most.
- Expand equitable access to USDA nutrition assistance programs.
- Advance equity in federal procurement.
- Uphold general federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes.
- Commit unwaveringly to civil rights.
- Operate with transparency and accountability.
Equity Commission: Shaping Change at USDA
USDA's Equity Commission is an independent body with 41 Commission and Subcommittee members charged with evaluating USDA programs and services and developing recommendations on how we can reduce barriers. Using this information, USDA will make needed changes so that the Department's programs, services, and decisions reflect the values of equity and inclusion. This will ensure everyone has a fair shot at resources, begin closing the racial wealth gap, and address longstanding inequities in agriculture.
The work of the Equity Commission is empowering USDA to objectively confront the hard reality of past and help build back better by serving our customers fairly and equitably.
Building a More Diverse USDA
Leading with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access Front and Center: USDA’s commitment to diversity and equity includes both committed leadership and strong policy. USDA has issued a robust diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) strategic plan and has hired a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) and other staff to implement it. The CDIO leads USDAʼs work to build an organization that reflects the diversity of the communities USDA serves, bringing the best talent to USDA, retaining and investing in our workforce, and creating a culture where everyone feels welcomed.
At the core of USDAʼs Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategic Plan are six focus areas for the next five years:
- Build a culture that drives trust, belonging, transparency, accountability, and employee empathy.
- Achieve a workforce representative of Americans that inspires development of innovative ideas and best practices.
- Foster a workplace environment that is physically, mentally, and emotionally safe.
- Establish leadership and governance structures to support long-term and sustainable DEIA efforts.
- Promote empowerment, responsibility, and accountability for DEIA through developing the workforce.
- Demonstrate a commitment to a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible USDA through accountability, data collection, analysis, and effective policymaking.
USDA DEIA Strategic Plan (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Other Equity Resources
- USDA Equity Accomplishments and Resources
- USDA Equity News Releases
- USDA Equity Blog
- USDA Equity Commission
- Interim Report (PDF, 1.2 MB) (February 2023) | En Español (PDF, 1.3 MB)
- USDA Response to Equity Commission Interim Report 2023 (PDF, 642 KB) | En Español (PDF, 623 KB)
- Upcoming Equity Commission Public Meeting – Registration (June 27, 28, 29, 2023)
- Equity Commission Members
- Equity Commission Resources and Tools
- USDA 2022 Equity Action Plan | Equity Action Plan Summary
- USDA Executive Order 13085 Request for Information (RFI) Summary (2021)
- USDA Strategic Plan for Financial Year 2022-2026 (PDF, 9.6 MB)
- USDA Environmental Justice Scorecard (April 2023)
- Learn even more
Assistance for Agricultural Producers: Get Started! A Guide to USDA Resources for Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers (PDF, 2 MB) (July 2022) (Also available in Spanish, Hmong, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese)
Key Statutes: American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Inflation Reduction Act
American Rescue Plan Act Section 1006
American Rescue Plan of 2021 (Feb. 22, 2021)
White House: Advancing Equity through The American Rescue Plan Report (May 2022)
Press release - Aug. 24, 2022 - USDA Announces $550 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding for Projects Benefiting Underserved Agricultural Producers and Minority Serving Institutions that Create Career Development Opportunities for Next Generation Leaders
Fact sheet – Equity at the Center of All USDA Activities (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Fact sheet – NIFA 1006 Components (PDF, 105 KB)
Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Section 22006: Progress for Distressed Farmers Facing Financial Risk
Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Section 22007: Financial Assistance to Borrowers Who Have Faced Discrimination
Farmers.gov/22007 (frequently updated)
USDA Announces Next Steps in Providing Financial Assistance to Borrowers Who Have Faced Discrimination (March 1, 2023) (Note: updated above)
Equity-related Executive Orders and Whole-of-Government Memos
List of USDA covered programs (PDF, 211 KB)
EO 14096: “Revitalizing our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All” (April 21, 2023)
EO 14091: “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” (February 16, 2023)
EO 14075: “Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals” (June 15, 2022)
EO 14058: “Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government” (December 13, 2021)
Memo to Agencies: Advancing Equity in Procurement (Dec. 2, 2021)
EO 14035: “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce” (June 25, 2021)
EO 14020: “Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council” (March 8, 2021)
EO 14008: “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” (January 27, 2021)
EO 13988: “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” (January 20, 2021)
EO 13985: “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” (January 20, 2021)
Memo to Agencies on Modernizing Regulatory Review (Jan. 20, 2021)
EO 13166: “Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency” (August 16, 2000)
EO 13175: “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments" (November 6, 2000)
EO 13166: “Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency” (August 11, 2000)