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Equity Commission Members

The Equity Commission and its Subcommittees is comprised of a diverse group of individuals who have a shared commitment to ensuring USDA is a diverse, inclusive, accessible organization that upholds its commitment to civil rights and effectively advances racial justice and equity. For more background on the composition of the Commission, please see the Membership Balance Plan and Nomination and Application Process.

USDA Deputy Secretary Dr. Bronaugh

Dr. Jewel Bronaugh
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

Arturo S. Rodriguez

Arturo S. Rodríguez
United Farm Workers President Emeritus

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We are excited and humbled to serve as the Co-Chairs for the Equity Commission at the United States Department of Agriculture. This Commission has the imperative task of providing recommendations to the Secretary on policies, programs, and actions needed to address racial equity issues within the Department of Agriculture and its programs, including strengthening accountability at USDA. In short, this Commission is charged with advancing equity at a time when it is clearly needed and long overdue.

We are honored to lead this extraordinary group of talented individuals from all walks of life who have agreed to serve on the Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee. These individuals encompass the very essence of public service.

We are committed to implementing the President’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government to help the Biden-Harris Administration address equity across the whole of the Federal government.

We are grateful for the trust Secretary Vilsack has put in us and we look forward to working independently with the full commission and subcommittees to provide USDA with actionable recommendations to fulfill the promise of being the people’s Department and help ensure that everyone receives the fair chance to reach their full potential.

In gratitude and service,

Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, USDA Deputy Secretary and Arturo S. Rodríguez, United Farm Workers President Emeritus

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Agriculture Deputy Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh and Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers President Emeritus talking

The USDA Equity Commission, its Subcommittee for Agriculture and Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, is a group of agriculture industry members, experts, and advocates. It includes members of organizations that serve or advocate for underserved communities, minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities and LGBTQI+ communities. The small business community, higher education institutions and farmworker groups are also represented.

To learn more about the members, please visit the following link: Equity Commission and Agriculture Subcommittee Biographies (PDF, 1.6 MB)

Equity Commission Members

 The inaugural Equity Commission members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture in February 2022 are:

Arturo Rodríguez

Arturo S. Rodríguez
President Emeritus, United Farm Workers
Co-Chair, Communications and Public Relations Expert

Rodriguez retired as president of the United Farm Workers (UFM) in 2018, after 45 years, the last 25 years spent leading the union. As president emeritus, Rodriguez helps the UFW maintain key employer, retailer, and political relationships, and focuses on immigration issues.

His accomplishments include helping the UFW pull farm worker pay above the minimum wage in many of California’s largest agricultural regions and achieving overtime pay for California farm workers after eight hours a day under a historic UFW-sponsored state law.

Rodriguez’s activism began in his native Texas in 1966. He started full time UFW service in 1973, meeting civil rights and farm worker advocate Cesar Chavez, who became his mentor for 20 years. He lives with his wife, Sonia, in San Antonio.

Hazell Reed

Dr. Hazell Reed
Executive Director, National Black Growers Council
Community-Based Organization Representative

Dr. Reed joined the National Black Growers Council (NBGC) April 2021 as Executive Director. Prior to joining NBGC, he served as Vice Chancellor, Division of Research and Economic Development, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), 2009 - 2015.

Dr. Reed has been involved in higher education administration, teaching, research, outreach and economic development at multiple schools and institutions including the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, Delaware State University and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Dr. Reed also served as the inaugural Chair for the National Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, United States Department of Agriculture.

He earned the B.S., Horticulture, Arkansas A.M. & N. College (Now the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff); the M.S., Horticulture/Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University; and, the Ph.D. Degree, Plant Science, University of Arkansas – Fayetteville

Toni Stanger Mclaughlin

Toni Stanger-McLaughlin
Chief Executive Officer, Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF)
Community-Based Organization Representative

Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, J.D., a citizen of the Colville Confederated Tribes, serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF). Before being named the CEO of NAAF, she served as the first NAAF Director of Programs, assisting the development and delivery of millions of dollars of NAAF philanthropic investment in Tribal food systems.

Stanger-McLaughlin started her agricultural career working in USDA’s Office of Civil Rights, where she worked on the Keepseagle national class action litigation. She also worked in the USDA Office of Tribal Relations in the Office of the Secretary, to advance Tribal needs in agriculture, natural resources, land use and infrastructure development. She also served as the Director of Tribal Relations for the University of Arkansas School of Law Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) and ran a private consulting business.

She earned a J.D. from the University of North Dakota School of Law, focusing on federal Indian law, and holds certificates in mediation, Tribal law and business, and executive leadership. In her spare time, Stanger- McLaughlin enjoys being outdoors with her husband and three children, as well as beading and sewing powwow regalia for her immediate and extended family.

Derrick Johnson

Derrick Johnson
President and Chief Executive Officer, NAACP
Civil Rights Expert

Derrick Johnson has served as President and CEO of the NAACP, since October of 2017. President Johnson formerly served as vice chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, as well as state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP.

Under President Johnson’s leadership, the NAACP has undertaken such efforts as the 2018 “Log Out” Facebook Campaign, pressuring Facebook after reports of Russian hackers targeting African Americans, the Jamestown to Jamestown Partnership, marking the 400th year enslaved Africans first touched the shores of America, the 2020 We are Done Dying Campaign, exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large, and most recently the victorious 2020 Supreme Court lawsuit NAACP vs. Trump, which prevents Donald Trump’s administration from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for millions of young immigrants.

Born in Detroit, Johnson attended Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS. He then received his J.D. from the South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX. He has also furthered his training through fellowships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the George Washington University School of Political Management, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Johnson has served as an annual guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, lending his expertise to Professor Lani Guinier’s course on social movements, and as an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College. He is frequently featured on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and many others, advocating on behalf of the Black community and all those who are affected by systemic oppression and prejudice.

Ronald Rainey

Dr. Ronald Rainey
Assistant Vice President, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

Dr. Ron Rainey serves as Assistant Vice President and Professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. He provides collaborative leadership to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; broadband expansion; value-added entrepreneurship; and enhanced collaboration across research, teaching and extension mission areas as well as the Center for Agriculture and Rural Sustainability and the Southern Risk Management Education Center (SRMEC).

An Extension economist, Dr. Rainey focuses on enhancing farm and ranch value-added entrepreneurship, risk management and marketing throughout the agricultural sector. Over his almost 30-year career, he has worked across disciplines and state lines engaging with public and private partners. His programs have secured more than $25 million in grants and contracts.

He is the former President of the University of Arkansas’ National Alumni Board of Directors and continues to be active with alumni chapters and societies in Arkansas. Dr. Rainey lives in Little Rock with his wife, Jenel, and their daughter.

Mireya Loza

Dr. Mireya Loza
Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Dr. Mireya Loza is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the American Studies Program at Georgetown University and holds an appointment as a curator at the National Museum of American History. She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies and an M.A. in Public Humanities at Brown University. Her areas of research include Immigration History, Labor History and Food Studies. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown, she taught in the Department of Food Studies at New York University.

Her award-winning book, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual and Political Freedom (UNC Press), examines America’s largest guest worker program. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Smithsonian’s Latino Center.

Charles Rawls

Charles Rawls
Former General Counsel, Farm Credit Administration and Former General Counsel, USDA
Legal Expert

Charles (Charlie) Rawls is an experienced leader in federal legal and policy matters focused on agriculture and agricultural credit. Most recently, he completed 18 years of service as general counsel at the Farm Credit Administration (FCA).

His prior federal experience includes serving at USDA in the 1990’s, first as executive assistant to Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger. He served as general counsel of the Department from 1998 to 2000, during which he worked to address civil rights issues, including collaboration with the Department of Justice and Congress to resolve the initial class action brought in 1997 by African American farmers.

Rawls has done extensive legal and policy work on agricultural legislation, including farms bills, for both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. He earned a B.A. in Business Management from North Carolina State University, and a J.D. from the Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. He is a member of the state bar of North Carolina.

Shorlette Ammons

Shorlette Ammons
Program Director, Farm Aid
Organizational Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Expert

Shorlette Ammons currently serves as Program Director for Farm Aid. She most recently served as Equity in Food Systems Coordinator, Extension Associate with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. Through CEFS, Shorlette leads the CORE (Committee on Racial Equity) team where she coordinates and facilitates racial equity trainings and ongoing learning sessions, facilitates guest lectures, and develops curriculum and strategic tools to address food insecurity and other food systems disparities.

She was selected as the Center for Social Inclusion’s (now Race Forward) 2013 Food and Racial Equity Fellow, and is a 2019 Castanea Fellow, currently serving on the board of Land Loss Prevention Project which provides legal services and advocates for Black and small farmers.

She is a former children’s librarian, where she helped found the Wayne County Public Library’s community garden, with a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. Ammons has a teenage daughter, now in college and a sweet pup named Lady, and lives in Durham, NC.

Poppy Sias Hernandez

Poppy Sias-Hernandez
Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, State of Michigan
Executive Director, Office of Global Michigan
Organizational Development, Design Thinking and Change Management Expert

Poppy Hernandez received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and her M.A. from Western Michigan University. For more than 20 years, Hernandez’ work of strategic change management has been at the intersection of public health, education, workforce development, and diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2019, she was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as the Regional Director of Community Affairs. In 2020, Governor Whitmer appointed Hernandez as the first-ever Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer (EIO) in the Executive Office of the Governor. In addition to her role as the Chief EIO, she also serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Global Michigan. Hernandez lives on Michigan’s “west coast,” along the shores of the beautiful Lake Michigan, with her husband of 25 years and has two remarkable sons who are currently busy adulting.

Todd Corley

Todd Corley
Senior Vice President for Inclusion and Sustainability, Carhartt
Organizational Development, Design Thinking and Change Management Expert

Todd Corley is the Senior Vice President, Inclusion, Sustainability & Community at Carhartt, a global workwear brand. In his role, Corley oversees charitable giving and long-term value creation linked to environmental and social issues.

Corley has deep experience leading transformational change initiatives focused on promoting equity and belonging, including mitigating the reputational and financial losses following a landmark $50M Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discrimination case (Abercrombie & Fitch v. Gonzalez).

He is a recipient of the Claes Nobel World Betterment Award, presented by the esteemed family that established the Nobel Prize, recognizing his contributions to the promotion of global unity and cultural understanding. Corley is a graduate of Le Moyne College and Georgetown University (MBA). Todd also completed executive education programs at Dartmouth College (Brand & Reputation Management) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Artificial Intelligence).

Yvonne Lee

Yvonne Lee
Former Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Policy Design Expert

Yvonne Yim-Hung Lee has a 40-year career advancing social and economic justice for underrepresented communities. She has effectively advocated for policies and initiatives toward equitable access to health, safety, and economic opportunities for vulnerable populations including the elderly, immigrants, and minority-owned small businesses.

As the first national executive director for a Chinese American civil rights organization, Lee collaborated with other national civil rights organizations to advocate for anti-hate legislation and the preservation of family immigration and economic justice for minority-owned small businesses. Her diverse public service experience also includes serving as a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, Regional Advocate of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Commissioner of the San Francisco Police Commission. Lee currently serves on the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Lee has received numerous awards, including a California Emmy for Best Documentary for her film, “Separate Lives, Broken Dreams” on the Chinese Exclusion Act’s long-term impact on families and communities. She is an alumna of the University of California at Davis.

Elizabeth Lower Basch

Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Center for Law and Social Policy
Policy Design Expert

Elizabeth Lower-Basch directs the Income and Work Supports team at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty policy advocacy organization. In this role, she leads a team of experts focused on the core public benefits programs that help people with low incomes meet their and their families' basic nutrition, health care and other needs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

From 1996 to 2006, Ms. Lower-Basch worked for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, focusing on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Her work included writing one of the first analyses of racial disparities in the outcomes of families with low incomes under TANF.

She received a B.A. in History from Yale University, writing her thesis on pro- and anti-immigrant tendencies in the 19th century American labor movement and an public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Shirley Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod
Executive Director, Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Shirley Sherrod is the co-founder and executive director of the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc. (1966) and the co-founder and Vice President for New Communities, Inc. (1969), the first Community Land Trust in the U.S.

In 2009, she was appointed by the Obama Administration as the Georgia State Director of Rural Development for USDA. She became the first African American to hold this position.

She became active in the civil rights movement in 1965 after the murder of her father when she was 17 years old. This has a profound impact on her life and led to her decision to stay in the South and help build a more just system.

Sherrod has a B.A. in Sociology from Albany State University in Albany, Georgia, and an M.A. in Community Development from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 2015, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Sojourner-Douglas College in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the recipient of many awards including the James Beard Foundation Award, Estelle Whitherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award, A Fellowship in the Kellogg National Fellowship Program and she has been inducted into the National Co- op Hall of Fame.

Ertharin Cousin

Ertharin Cousin
Chair & Chief Executive Officer, Food Systems for the Future
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Ertharin Cousin currently serves as the CEO and Managing Director of Food Systems for the Future, a nutrition impact investment fund; a Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; a Bosch Academy, Robert Weizsäcker Fellow; and as a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University, Center on Food Security and Environment.

From 2012 until 2017, Cousin led the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). As Executive Director, Cousin guided the 14,000-member WFP team feeding more than 80 million people each year while, she identified and championed longer-term, more sustainable solutions for global food insecurity and hunger.

In 2009, Cousin was nominated and confirmed as the US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the U.S. domestic fight to end hunger including service as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of America’s Second Harvest - now Feeding America. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management Program-Finance for Non- Financial Executives.

Rick Smith

Rick Smith
Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Dairy Farmers of America
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Since 2006, Richard P. (Rick) Smith has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA). Owned by 12,500 US dairy farmers, DFA is the nation’s largest and most diversified farmer-owned milk marketing cooperative. At DFA, Smith helped strategically increase value for its farmer owners, grow commercial businesses and the Cooperative’s global footprint while creating opportunities to grow a diverse workforce, address unconscious bias in employee policy, and provide training, leadership and growth opportunities for 18,000 staff.

He began his career in the dairy industry in 1982, when he joined Dairylea Cooperative, Inc., as vice president of administration and general counsel. He served as its chief executive officer from 1988 to 2005. Prior to joining Dairylea, Rick was a schoolteacher, and then a private attorney in Syracuse, N.Y. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) in political science from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and J.D. degree from St. John’s University School of Law, where he was editor of the Law Review.

Agriculture Subcommittee Members

The inaugural Equity Commission – Agriculture Subcommittee members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture in February 2022 include:


Shari Rogge Fidler


Shari Rogge-Fidler
Chief Executive Officer, Farm Foundation
Agricultural Industry Representative

Shari Rogge-Fidler, president and CEO of Farm Foundation, has more than 25 years of global leadership and executive experience. Rogge-Fidler’s unique perspective developed through her experience as a fifth- generation farm owner and operator, entrepreneur in the organic-branded food industry, founder of an agribusiness consulting firm and leader of a soil health technology firm.

She began her career in London in financial services and continued in Europe with the Boston Consulting Group. These experiences uniquely positioned her to take the CEO roles at Family Farms LLC, a suite of services for over 1,000 farms, and Applied GeoSolutions (AGS) LLC, where she led the commercialization of technology for soil health and carbon applications. Rogge-Fidler has served on several corporate boards, including Farm Credit Mid America and Coastal Pet. She currently serves as a trustee for The Nature Conservancy, and advisory boards of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, and Lewis & Clark Agrifood Fund.

Savi Horne

Savonala "Savi" Horne
Executive Director, Land Loss Prevention Project
Civil Rights Expert

Savi Horne is Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP), which was founded in 1983. LLPP is a non-profit, public interest law firm with an overarching mission of providing legal expertise, community education, and advocacy skills to help farmers and rural landowners who face legal, economic, and environmental challenges.

Horne has served on numerous initiatives and boards including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a Co-Team Leader of the Diversity Initiative of the Farm and Food Policy Project (FFPP); Getting Our Act Together, a national Farm Bill policy collaboration which secured gains in the 2018 Farm Bill to advance civil rights and program access for heirs' property producers, National Family Farm Coalition and the Rural Coalition.

She is a member of the Coordinating Council of Black Land and Power Coalition and the Leadership Team of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance and a recipient of the 2020 American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship. Horne is a graduate of the Rutgers University School of Law- Newark (J.D.) and the City College of New York (B.A.).

Alexis Racelis

Alexis Racelis, PhD
Associate Professor and Director of Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems Program, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
University Personnel

Dr. Alexis Racelis is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences and the Department of Biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution and Hispanic Serving Agricultural College.

He directs the academic program in Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems at UTRGV, an innovative program designed to confront and help address issues in food, agriculture, and agricultural education in south Texas through applied research, experiential learning, and community engagement.

Dr. Racelis also serves as co-director for the UTRGV Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement (SARA), with a mission to improve agricultural sustainability and advance rural communities in Texas. The center specifically and intentionally reaches out to and advocates for local area farmers with culturally appropriate modes, including with Spanish language delivery of personalized extension-style services, technical training, and financial support.

Gina Eubanks

Gina Eubanks
Associate Vice President of Nutrition and Food Sciences, LSU AgCenter
University Personnel

Dr. Gina E. Eubanks is the associate vice president/program leader at the LSU AgCenter. She provides administrative leadership for the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Department of Biological Agricultural Engineering. In conjunction with an administrative team, she assists with the coordination of research and extension programs.

Dr. Eubanks received a M.S. and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising and Home Economics Education respectively in 1978 and 1987. Her B.S. degree in Clothing, Textiles and Related Arts from at Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, LA.

Michelle Hughes

Michelle Hughes
Operations and Impact Director, National Young Farmers Coalition
Community-Based Organization Representative

Michelle A.T. Hughes is a former hog farmer from New Haven, Connecticut, with a background in agriculture policy reform, and experience as a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion. Before serving as Operations and Impact Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition, Michelle was the organization’s Equity and Organizational Change Director, serving as a steward for racial equity transformation.

While at Young Farmers, Michelle has conducted a comprehensive racial equity impact assessment of the organization’s internal workflows and external programming. She helped develop a framework for the Coalition's anti-racism work for implementation across the organization, from internal change processes to farmer and partner engagement on racial equity.

Prior to completing her M.A. in Food Studies at New York University in 2019, Michelle worked in swine reproduction at the University of Pennsylvania, with both non-profit and food and agriculture start-ups in NYC and the Hudson Valley. She also served on a program evaluation team for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. Outside of her work at Young Farmers, Michelle is a consultant for the CP Factor, a non- profit consulting team that offers a range of organizational and leadership development services.

Kari Jo Lawrence

Kari Jo Lawrence
Executive Director, Intertribal Agriculture Council
Community-Based Organization Representative

Kari Jo Lawrence currently serves as the Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Prior to joining IAC, Kari Jo enjoyed a 20-year career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of it serving in Indian Country. During her tenure at the NRCS, she led successful programs and increased historically underserved participation.

Kari Jo was raised on a cattle ranch on the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota near the New Town and Mandaree areas. She attended Dickinson State University, where she earned a degree in Biology.

She is proud to have been one of the first recipients of the IAC Scholarship and says she “has found her way back home.” In her free time, Kari Jo enjoys spending time with her family, working on their ranch, and is an avid rodeo competitor.

Philip Johnson

Philip "PJ" Johnson Haynie III
Farmer/Owner, Haynie Farms LLC

Philip J. (PJ). Haynie, III, graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics in May 1999. While attending Virginia Tech, he served as president of the Virginia Tech MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences) chapter. During his senior year at Virginia Tech, Haynie was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Haynie, a fifth-generation farmer, currently owns and operates Haynie Farms, LLC, a grain farming business, producing com, wheat, soybeans and canola throughout all four counties of the Northern Neck of Virginia. Haynie and his family also own and operate a transportation company specializing in food grade liquid bulk and dry bulk transportation, a timber harvesting company as well as a landscaping and excavating company. Haynie currently serves as Chairman of the National Black Growers' Council.

P.J. and his wife, Dr. Lisa Haynie, reside in Reedville, VA., with their three children, Colette, age 18; Philip, IV, age 17; and Trevor, age 12.

Russell Redding

Russell Redding
Secretary of Agriculture, State of Pennsylvania

Russell C. Redding is currently serving as 26th Secretary of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is the former dean of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Delaware Valley University.

Redding has extensive experience as a public servant, having spent more than 30 years serving Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. He worked on Capitol Hill as Ag Policy Advisor to U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and served for nearly 24 years in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, serving as secretary from 2009-2011 under Governor Rendell.

He earned his B.S. in Agriculture Education and M.S. in Agriculture and Extension Education from Penn State University. In addition, he is a graduate of the Agribusiness Executive program. A native of Pennsylvania, Redding has an innate understanding of food and agriculture, stemming from his youth on his family’s dairy farm and his time as a dairy farm operator. He and his wife Nina have two sons and own and operate a farm in Gettysburg.

Janssen Hang

Janssen Hang
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Hmong America Farmers Association

Janssen Hang is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), a non- profit organization that works to advance the economic, social and cultural property of Hmong farmers in Minnesota.

In his position, Janssen works to create equitable access for Hmong farmers to land tenure, markets, credit and capital, training and research. He is also the first Hmong Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) trainer and led the first Hmong bi-lingual, bi-cultural certified Produce Safety Requirement (PSR) training for Hmong farmers in Minnesota, California and Missouri.

Janssen grew up growing, harvesting and selling vegetables for the local food economy and currently runs his family-owned value-added business making spring rolls and egg rolls at the downtown Saint Paul Farmers Market. A 2001 Saint Olaf graduate in Biology and Asian Studies, Janssen has over 30 years of experience in agriculture, 15 years in small business management, and 7 years as a licensed-real estate agent.

Erica Lomeli Corcoran

Erica Lomeli Corcoran
Systemic Change Director, United Farm Workers Foundation
Farmworker Group

Erica Lomeli Corcoran has more than 14 years of experience serving farm workers, Latinos and immigrants in agricultural areas and is currently serving as a United Farm Workers (UFW) executive team member and Director of the Systemic Change Department. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors to the Civic Empowerment Coalition (CEC4), a 501(c)(4) non-profit sister organization of the UFW Foundation and the Farm Worker Movement.

Under Corcoran’s leadership, the UFW Foundation’s Systemic Change Department played an essential role in supporting nearly 1 million farm workers and immigrants in the country’s leading agricultural areas during 2020.

She grew up in California and is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She graduated from the University of California Irvine with a degree in Social Science and a M.P.A., with a specialization in Education and Social Policy, from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

Sarah Vogel

Sarah Vogel
Individual Selected at the Discretion of the Secretary

Sarah Vogel is the first woman elected as a state Commissioner of Agriculture and one of the foremost agriculture lawyers in the U.S. The American Agricultural Law Association awarded her its Distinguished Service Award, and Willie Nelson honored Sarah at Farm Aid’s 30th Anniversary for her longtime service to family farmers.

Hailed as “a giant killer in ag law” by The Nation, Sarah served for decades as co-counsel on the Keepseagle case that was filed to redress USDA’s race discrimination against Native American ranchers and farmers. A popular speaker and advocate for farmers and Native Americans, Sarah lives in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Gary Matteson

Gary Matteson
Executive Vice President of Young, Beginning, Small Farmer programs and Outreach, Farm Credit Council
Individual Selected at the Discretion of the Secretary

Gary Matteson works for Farm Credit’s trade association in Washington, DC, as Senior Vice President, Beginning Farmer Programs and Outreach. This includes policy work on local foods, sustainable agriculture, and direct-to-consumer agriculture.

He is an advocate for young, beginning, small, and minority farmer outreach programs. This includes work on emerging opportunities in local foods, direct-to-consumer agriculture, and generational transition of farm businesses. He has researched, designed curricula, and taught financial and business planning skills for more than 15 years to thousands of beginning farmers in conferences, seminars, webinars, and college classrooms. Matteson specializes in making basic business concepts approachable and relevant to beginning farmers.

For 30 years Gary was a small farmer raising greenhouse wholesale cut flowers marketed in the Northeast and beef cattle for local sales. He has served on numerous boards of directors including Farm Credit, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Farmers Market Coalition, and many other non-profits.

Jennie Stephens

Jennie Stephens
Chief Executive Officer, Center for Heirs' Property Preservation
Individual Selected at the Discretion of the Secretary

Jennie L. Stephens has served as the chief leader of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation™ (the CHPPTM) since its inception in 2005. The CHPPTM works with historically underserved families who jointly own land that is vulnerable to disposition and underutilization because these landowners have limited or no access to financial resources or government programs. She is responsible for overall strategic planning and resource development. She has worked more than 30 years in the nonprofit field in such positions as fiscal director at a community action agency, sponsored programs director at a historically black college, and senior program director at Coastal Community Foundation.

More recently, Dr. Stephens served as a speaker at TedXCharleston with a talk titled, “Heirs Discover Money Does Grow on Trees” and was selected to be a BALLE Fellow, a member of 25 leaders who are building healthy and equitable rural economies across the U.S. and Canada. In March of 2021, she was featured in the BET documentary series ‘Disrupt and Dismantle’, with Soledad O’Brien.

Dr. Stephens received a B.A. in Business Administration from the College of Charleston, a M.P.A. from the University of Charleston/University of SC and earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.

Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee Members

Cheryal Hills
Executive Director, Region Five Development Commission (R5DC)
& North Central Economic Development Association
Community Based Organization Representative

Cheryal Hills joined Region Five Development Commission (R5DC) in 2006 and has a national reputation as a 25-year action-oriented convener with experience in securing resources through authentic relationships that have spurred equitable economic ecosystems and honor environmental stewardship commitments in rural Central Minnesota communities. Hills professionally provides oversight of seven lending programs and community development planning in areas of: transportation, workforce development, climate and broadband; and delivers projects related to renewable energy, local foods, and arts/culture.

She is a national speaker who has presented at the White House twice and recently to the US House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. Alongside her colleagues, Hills started a rural, regional Welcoming Communities program in 2018, when she became a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessments to improve regional cultural competency.

David Carrasquillo-Medrano
Planning & Community Development Director, Hispanic Federation – Puerto Rico
Community Based Organization Representative

David Carrasquillo-Medrano is a Planning and Community Development Manager for the Hispanic Federation in Puerto Rico. Carrasquillo-Medrano works as a private consultant, where he puts together manuscripts and graphical analysis, which primarily supports the decision-making process for municipalities and city councils. He has a master’s degree in Planning from the University of Puerto Rico and specializes in urban planning, territorial affairs, strategic planning, community outreach, economic affairs, and more. Carrasquillo-Medrano served as the president of the Puerto Rican Planning Society before his role with the Hispanic Federation.

Calvin Allen
Senior Program Director, MDC Rural Forward Initiatives
Community Based Organization Representative

Calvin Allen became the founding director of MDC Rural Forward in October 2014 and senior director at MDC in September 2022. He manages MDC Rural Forward’s “Beyond Local” portfolio, strengthening key state and national relationships, providing technical assistance, and supporting our local partners in Healthy Places NC counties.

For over twenty-five years, Allen has worked in the nonprofit sector as an administrator, trainer, facilitator, advocate, and consultant, primarily around organizational development, rural economic development, leadership, and conflict management. Most recently, he worked as program officer for the Golden LEAF Foundation’s community grants-making programs. He also served as deputy director at the Southern Rural Development Initiative, director of the National Community Forestry Service Center at the Conservation Fund, and associate director at the Dispute Settlement Center of Orange County.

Allen graduated from Duke University in 1992 and received a certificate in nonprofit management. He proudly co-instructs a practicum on Community Based Environmental Management for the Nicholas School of the Environment at his alma mater.

Allen is a 1994 graduate of Leadership Durham and a 2003-2005 graduate of the William C. Friday Fellow for Human Relations through the Wildacres Leadership Initiative, where he serves on the board of directors.

Lakota Vogel
Executive Director, Four Bands Community Fund
Community Based Organization Representative

Lakota Vogel is the Executive Director of Four Bands Community Fund, a Native community development financial institution (CDFI). Four Bands Community Fund focuses on entrepreneurship, trust land for asset development full utilization, and increasing financial services access on north central South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. As Executive Director, Vogel has been involved in capital raising and deploying funds to borrowers. Lakota has over 11 years of experience raising and deploying capital to underestimated Native American communities. Before her role as Executive Director, she served as the Assistant Director and supported fund development strategies. Since 2015, she has attracted over $25 million in capital to Four Bands Community Fund and deployed $15 million to low- income, Native American communities.

Vogel is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology. Upon graduation, she joined Teach for America and taught on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation at Todd County High School. Vogel obtained her master's in social work Degree from Washington University in St. Louis with the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies. She individualized her course of study to concentrate on economic security and social development through the life course of American Indians. In addition to her educational experience and role at Four Bands, Vogel is on the Executive Committee for the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition. She is the Treasurer for the National Native CDF, Akiptan. She is seated on the Finance and Audit Committee for the intermediary CDFI, Dakota Resources. In 2018, Vogel was named a recipient of the Native American 40 under 40 award by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

Valerie Beel
Executive Vice President, The First National Bank of Gordon
Lending Institution Representative

Valerie Beel has worked at the First National Bank of Gordon, Nebraska since 1995 and currently serves as the Executive Vice President, Senior Lender, and Director. She also sits on the Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s Project REACH Native American Housing Subcommittee. Prior, she served two terms on the OCC Minority Depository Advisory Committee.

Beel has been active in several businesses, including ranching, farming, residential rentals, plumbing, newspaper and banking. She is a commercial, tribal and ag lender and has experience with: FSA, SBA, USDA, BIA, IEED and HUD guaranties. She specializes in establishing collaborative relationships and is the originator, and former first President, of the Gordon Community Theater Inc. Beel is currently the President of the Gordon Community Development Corporation, which leases the theater building to the GCTI. She completed the first Housing and Urban Development Title VI loan on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which has provided housing for over 350 people. She has served as President of the Gordon Memorial Hospital Foundation and raised funds for the clinic renovation.

Beel graduated from Ainsworth High School and received a BS in International Political Science from Georgetown University with a minor in Economics. She has an MBA from Chadron State College.

LaTonya Keaton
Regional Vice President, CoBank
Lending Institution Representative

LaTonya Keaton is Regional Vice President for CoBank, one of the largest providers of credit to the rural economy, delivering loans, leases, and financial services to agribusiness and rural infrastructure companies in all 50 states. In her current role, Keaton leads a team of Relationship Managers, supporting agribusiness customers in a multi-state region.

Over the last decade, Keaton has served as CoBank's Senior Sales Leader and Portfolio Examiner and PNC's Credit and Risk Leader. As a Senior Relationship Manager, she worked with Middle Market Food & Agribusiness companies to meet diverse banking needs. In her Examiner role, she conducted retail, wholesale, and finance company portfolio reviews, identified specific risk areas, and recommended process and risk management enhancements. As a Senior Vice President, Risk Lead, Keaton oversaw the PNC C&IB group’s internal audit issue remediation process and related regulatory reporting, served as a subject matter expert for Leveraged Lending, and led the Financial Stability assessment program as a part of PNC’s Third-Party Risk Management process.

Keaton has significant experience with public, private, and municipal entities and has in-depth knowledge of board governance. Currently, serving on the board of Center of Work Empowerment & Education (CWEE) on the Executive Committee and as Board Secretary and the Women’s Leadership Foundation (WLF) Nomination & Governance Committee.

Doug O’Brien
President & CEO, National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA)
Small Business or Cooperative Representative

Doug O'Brien works with the cooperative community, domestically and internationally, to deepen their impact and influence. NCBA is the primary voice for cooperatives in the United States for using the Cooperative business model to empower people in their businesses and communities. O'Brien has been with NCBA since 2016 and became president and CEO in January 2018. Before coming to NCBA CLUSA, O'Brien led the work of the White House Rural Council and served in top positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has also worked in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and for two Governors. O'Brien's academia experience includes teaching and writing at the University of Arkansas and Drake University Law School. O’Brien was raised on a diversified farm in Dubuque County, Iowa, and holds degrees from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, the University of Iowa Law School, and the University of Arkansas Masters in Agricultural and Food Law Program.

Curtis Wynn
Chief Executive Officer, SECO Energy
Small Business or Cooperative Representative

Curtis Wynn was hired by the SECO Energy Board of Trustees in 2021 and joined the large and fast-growing Florida cooperative in mid-December. His energy industry career is rooted in Florida. From 1981 to 1997, he worked at West Florida Electric Cooperative. His tenure culminated there as Vice President of Member Services, Information Technology, Marketing, and Economic Development. Wynn also served for 24 years as President and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina before making the move to SECO Energy. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Management Information Systems from Troy University.

With a cooperative career that spans over 40 years, Wynn’s resume reflects a long list of awards and accomplishments with creative solutions that are turning the challenges of the energy industry evolution into major opportunities. Wynn serves or has served on a variety of boards including Immediate past board president, National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association; Past president, vice president and secretary-treasurer of North Carolina Electric Membership Cooperative; Board member, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC); Board Member Meridian Cooperative (formerly SEDC); and past nominating committee member, CoBank. Most recently, Wynn was awarded the Clyde T. Ellis award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. More recently, NRECA’s board of directors named the newly formed NRECA Diversity Champion award in his name.

Terry Rambler
Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe
Tribal Entity Representative

Terry Rambler is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and understands and speaks the Apache language fluently. Beginning in 2004, he was elected to the San Carlos Council and continued to be reelected in 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2018. In 2010, he was elected Chairman and reelected in 2014, and again in November 2018 for his third consecutive term. He has also served as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) and as President and Vice President of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA). For the Apache Alliance, Rambler has served as Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer.

He helped develop a community master plan to open new lands for housing, school, farming, and business development in Bylas, Arizona. Mainly through grants, he helped renovate the Ernest Stanley Activity Center and the Nelson Duane Rodeo Grounds, and build the Albert Goseyun Exhibit Hall, the Small Business Incubator Facility, the Lee Dona Baseball Field, and a new Head Start Center.

Larry Holland
Owner, Holland Hills Farm
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Larry Holland is a fifth-generation regenerative farmer, operating a grass-fed beef, goat, and free-range poultry operation in Tylertown, Mississippi.

He attended the University of Chicago, where he graduated with a degree in Politics and Economics. Upon graduation, Holland moved to New York City, where he worked his way to Senior Vice President of Corporate HR and Employee Services at Scholastic, the global publishing leader in children's books.

Upon retiring from Scholastic, Holland returned to his roots to farm full-time in 2005. He worked with his father to expand the family’s Tylertown-based operation, which now includes over Angus and Brangus mama cows, a herd of Spanish and Kiko goats, a small heard of Barbados Black Belly Sheep, and an assortment of free-range poultry. Holland's focus has been to implement those “whole farm” practices that his grandparents and their parents practiced on their farms, which we refer to today as “regenerative farming.” Holland has served on the boards of his local farm cooperative, Walthall Coop, a local rural water association of the LOL member network. Holland also serves as an alternate on his county FSA committee.

Nils Christoffersen
Executive Director, Wallowa Resources
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Nils D. Christoffersen is the Executive Director of Wallowa Resources, an organization he joined in 1999 as its first Field Program Manager. Wallowa Resources, a community-based non-profit, works to sustain working lands and livelihoods in Northeast Oregon. Over two decades, Christoffersen has managed the development of Wallowa Resources’ watershed stewardship and education programs and their for-profit subsidiary investments in wood products, biomass, and renewable energy. He recently led the new partnership with Eastern Oregon University to launch the Rural Engagement and Vitality Center dedicated to community, economic, and workforce development in eastern Oregon. Before joining Wallowa Resources, Christoffersen worked overseas and spent six years with rural communities in southern Africa. He served on the Oregon Board of Forestry for eight years and chaired the Board’s Sub-Committee on Federal Forests. In that capacity, he served on the Oregon Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response.

Christoffersen currently serves on the Board of Winding Waters Community Health Clinic – a federally qualified rural health, and on the Aspen CSG’s Rural Action Roundtable on Equity. He served on the Aspen CSG’s Rural Development Innovation Group (2016-2020), the National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry (2003-2008), and the Enterprise School Board from 2004-2017. He has a Bachelor’s in Economics from Williams College (Massachusetts) and a master’s in Forestry from Oxford University (UK).

Shonterria Charleston
Director of Training and Technical Assistance, Housing Assistance Council
Representative of Broad Spectrum of Related Issues

Shonterria Charleston oversees the Housing Assistance Council’s (HAC’s) Training and Technical Assistance Division. Her role includes managing HAC’s Capacity Building Programs, including the HUD - Rural Capacity Building (RCB) and Veterans Rehabilitation and Modification (VHRMP) programs; the USDA - Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI); Community Facilities Technical Assistance (CFTA) and Rural Placemaking Innovation (RPIC) Programs and the Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans (AHRV) Initiative. She also oversees and manages training activities like the biennial National Rural Housing Conference. Before this position, Charleston served as Programs and Training Manager and provided direct technical assistance on organizational capacity building, nonprofit governance, management, development, strategic planning, and transformation related to an array of programs such as HUD's Section 202 and 811 supportive housing programs.

Charleston is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces (ARMY-Active Component) and the Georgia Army National Guard. She holds a master’s degree from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University. Charleston is also a Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and Georgia Military College graduate-alumna, a HUD HOME Program-Regulations certificate holder, and a recognized HUD Energy Champion.

Member Perspectives