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Equity Accomplishments

Equity Action PlanEquity Commission

USDA’s commitment to equity spans the Department’s mission areas and agencies. Here is some of the progress over the past two years:

1. Reducing Barriers to USDA Programs

Gilbert Louis Jr.

USDA is reducing barriers to programs and improving support to underserved farmers, ranchers, landowners, businesses, and communities, including by providing ways for stakeholders to share their experiences, insights, and needs and by incorporating that input into policy development and implementation improvement.


  • USDA Organic Transition Initiative. This program aims to reduce financial barriers that may stand in the way of domestic producers’ transition to organic certification. It also increases domestic access to organically produced goods and decreases reliance on foreign markets with their foreign supply chain challenges. The program launched in October 2022; in May 2023, the Department announced additional steps to strengthen the market for domestically grown organic goods and to support producers seeking organic certification. The new Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will issue up to $75 million in grants to domestic growers. The initiative will continue to help build new and better markets, strengthen local and regional food systems, and increase food supply and affordability.

  • Progress Towards Fair, Competitive, and Transparent Markets. In May 2023, USDA published a fact sheet addressing efforts taken by the Department to address competition issues in agricultural markets in response to the 2021 Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in America’s Economy. Highlights of USDA’s efforts include:
    • Launching an unprecedented multibillion-dollar investment plan to directly incentivize competition in food processing and fertilizer, creating more market opportunities and input options for producers.
    • Reinvigorating USDA’s century-old fair and competitive market laws with new rules and enforcement to counter unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices and empower producers and growers.
    • Supporting transparency.
    • Creating a fairer market for seeds and other agricultural inputs.
    • Enhancing value-added market access.
    • Promoting competition in transportation networks that producers depend on.
  • Expanding USDA Regional Food Business Centers and Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI). In May of 2023, USDA announced 12 organizations that will be new USDA Regional Food Business Centers. These centers will provide national coverage coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources. Additionally, USDA also announced a $420 million Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program to fund innovative projects designed to build resilience and strengthen local and regional food systems. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will partner with state and territories’ departments of agriculture for this program. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply directly through their state agency.
  • The AgDiscovery Program. The AgDiscovery Program, initiated by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), received an overwhelming response with 911 student applications in the spring of 2023. The program partners with 21 universities to provide free summer camps aimed at inspiring teenagers to explore career opportunities in the field of agricultural sciences. By offering this unique opportunity, APHIS amplifies equity by ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds have access to and can pursue their interests in the agricultural sciences.
  • Simplified direct farm loan application process. Approximately 26,000 producers submit a direct loan application to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) annually, but there is a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, due in part to a challenging and lengthy paper-based application process. In response, FSA implemented a simplified direct farm loan application process in February 2023, drastically reducing the burden and time spent on its forms. The agency has also rolled out a loan assistance tool that helps farmers and ranchers better navigate the farm loan application process.
  • WIC modernization. USDA is investing in outreach, innovation, and modernization to ensure that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program meets the needs of today’s busy families. WIC modernization is focused on enrolling and keeping enrolled all eligible families, while making shopping simple and convenient, continues to support remote benefit delivery options so that families can use all their benefits, and making WIC equitable and accessible for all. As part of the modernization, USDA continues to support remote benefit delivery options, so WIC participants do not need to travel to a physical clinic location to receive services; in addition, the agency has published a proposed rule to remove regulatory barriers to online shopping and support a modern and equitable shopping experience for WIC participants. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s investment plan is based on input received through more than 30 stakeholder sessions, and FNS will develop and implement a national WIC Public Health Outreach Campaign to increase awareness of the health and nutrition benefits associated with participating in WIC. FNS awarded a contract to carry out the campaign, which is authorized and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and it will formally launch in FY2024.

  • The USDA Caribbean Climate Hub announced a series of climate focused OneUSDA workshops aimed to foster farmer and forest manager awareness of climate change, trends and projections, key vulnerabilities in the region, and relevant actions and resources available from USDA agencies, Extension, and other entities.
  • Increasing access for small producers to become USDA Foods vendors. In February 2023, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) lowered administrative barriers for suppliers interested in becoming approved USDA Foods vendors, so that more producers – especially smaller producers – can gain access to markets such as school food programs. This change marks one more instance of USDA transforming America’s food system by promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers.
  • Access for Indian Country. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) made substantial changes to address barriers and inequities in Indian Country through updating the Livestock Indemnity Program’s 2022 payment rates to (1) recognize tribal traditional animals and better reflect true market value of non-adult beef, beefalo, bison, and dairy animals; (2) update several livestock programs to include horses not intended to be used for racing and wagering, allowing participation by eligible tribal ranchers who use forage to raise their horses; and (3) modify the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and signing historic new agreements with three tribal nations in the Great Plains that will help enroll eligible agricultural land that lies within reservation boundaries.
  • Increasing access to NAP. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has long heard about the challenges underserved farmers have faced in navigating the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP); in January 2023, FSA announced program updates that reduce the paperwork burden on these producers to access free basic NAP coverage with a NAP service-fee waiver.
  • Increasing Tribal Access to Conservation Programs. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) lowered barriers to program participation, including by updating policies relating to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to provide Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations with additional flexibilities for funding, planning, and administration where existing processes created barriers to program participation. Separate EQIP funding opportunities were also established for beginning and underserved producers. NRCS also streamlined processes to assist in the application for more than one program at once.
  • Improving access to our programs for formerly-incarcerated individuals. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will continue to promote administrative waivers to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) State agencies that allow for the acceptance and processing of SNAP applications prior to release, enabling re-entering individuals to receive benefits faster; host a webinar to highlight promising practices from state and local SNAP agencies partnering with correctional facilities to connect formerly incarcerated individuals with nutrition services; and update and reissue a series of myth-busters to clarify SNAP eligibility for individuals with criminal records.
  • Access to Broadband. Rural Development’s (RD) ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to bring high-speed internet to rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband. In FY22, in the program’s third round of funding, RD authorized 100% grants (without matching requirements) for Alaska Native Corporations, Tribal Governments, Colonias, Persistent Poverty Areas, and Socially Vulnerable Communities. For the fourth round, an additional no-match funding category was added in August 2022 for projects where 90% of households lack sufficient access to broadband. Scoring of applications emphasizes equity.
    • Most recently, on April 3, USDA invested $40 million to provide high-speed internet access for people living and working in rural areas in New Mexico. Three New Mexico Cooperatives will receive grants to deploy fiber-to-the-premises networks to provide high-speed internet access to rural counties. This will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP).
  • Reducing barriers posed by fund match requirements. The Forest Service (FS) made significant changes in July 2022 to its grants and agreements program, which will more equitably open doors for underserved communities, Tribes, and non-traditional partners. Financial matching requirements that are not mandated by statute are being waived for all cooperative agreements with Tribal communities. A program review is underway to ensure that, where discretion permits, financial matching requirements are waived or significantly reduced for agreements serving disadvantaged communities.
  • Helping Farmers Solve Succession Issues. USDA has provided $67 million in competitive loans through its new Heirs’ Property Relending Program. The program, launched in July 2021, allows intermediary lenders to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues. Heirs’ property and other land tenure issues have long been substantial barriers preventing access to USDA programs for many producers and landowners, and this relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution. The program’s benefits go far beyond its participants; it will keep farmland in farming, protect family farm legacies, and support economic viability.
  • Promoting Urban Agriculture. Historically, the lack of USDA offices and presence in urban and suburban areas and the absence of USDA farm programs that are aligned with the needs of urban and suburban agricultural producers have been barriers to access. In response, USDA has stood up the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP), a department-wide office housed in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which has hired a permanent Director and six full-time staff.
    • To date, OUAIP has awarded approximately $55 million, including $44 million in FY2022 American Rescue Plan funding for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production competitive grants (funding for planning and implementation projects with priority to areas lacking access to healthy, affordable food), Composting and Food Waste Reeducation cooperative agreements (funding for municipal food waste and compost projects), and the People’s Garden Initiative (funding for educational food producing gardens in 17 cities).
    • OUAIP has been coordinating with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS to open 17 Urban Service Centers in cities selected for pilot Urban County Committees. The Urban Service Centers will open this year and provide urban producers one convenient location where they can enroll in FSA and NRCS programs and learn about other USDA programs available to support their operations.
    • OUAIP has been working with newly hired Urban Agriculture Coordinators at FSA and NRCS to modify programs to eliminate barriers to participation by urban and innovative producers nationwide, including by adjusting payment scenarios for use on small-scale operations, and developing new practice standards to better serve on small-scale urban agriculture operations.
  • Assistance for small meat/poultry processers. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is providing relief from inspection overtime charges for small and very small meat and poultry processing establishments.
  • Removing derogatory names. The Forest Service (FS) is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior to rename landmarks on the federal lands they manage that have derogatory names.
  • Expanding crop insurance to more crops and producers. Through a series of stakeholder engagements, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) learned about the needs of specialty crop and underserved producers, and has used tools in the 2018 Farm Bill to improve policy, rolling out (1) a new nursery policy that is easier for producers to access and for insurance companies to sell and service, (2) a new policy for strawberries in Florida and California, (3) several modifications to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program to expand eligibility limits and provide more coverage for organic and livestock producers, and (4) a new Micro Farm Program targeted at providing crop insurance for smaller producers who sell locally, such as to farmers markets.
  • Modernizing FPAC processes. So that farmer and rancher requests take fewer steps and less time to deliver results, the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area is using new processes and technology—including expanded use of digital signatures, remote workload processing, and a centralized call center staffed with employees readily available to assist customers.
  • Diversity in trade missions. USDA’s Agribusiness Trade Mission program strongly encourages participation from a wide variety of businesses. In 2022, nearly 40 percent of U.S. companies that participated in USDA Trade Missions were women-, minority-, or tribal-owned. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) reached out to the Inter-tribal Agriculture Council to promote the participation of tribal owned companies.
  • Facilitating wide participation in FSA county committees. Many producers and commissions have recommended that Farm Service Agency (FSA) ensure that producers have access to county maps, increasing the potential for underserved producers to effectively participate in FSA’s county committee nominations and elections process. FSA has published a new GIS Locator Tool to solve this problem.
  • Improving language access. USDA is working across the Department to improve access for members of the public whose English proficiency is limited. Among many areas of progress:
    • USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has been working to translate its website and public-facing nutrition assistance program and nondiscrimination materials into Spanish and 54 other languages for recipients of Federal Financial Assistance to use, including the SNAP Eligibility page, a prototype school meals application, the CACFP Meal Benefit Eligibility Form, and WIC Breastfeeding Support resources. In 2022, FNS published a Non-Citizen Communities webpage that provides information on the FNS programs that support eligible non-citizens and family members; FNS plans to develop a SNAP-specific non-citizen page in the future. In addition, FNS Reach and Resiliency grant funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) can be used to translate program materials into additional languages. FNS also developed a Language Access Plan to eliminate or reduce, to the maximum extent practicable, limited English proficiency as a barrier to accessing Agency programs and activities.
    • In the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area—covering the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency—more than 200 new Spanish-language webpages were built in the last year alone, on, highlighting priority programs, deadlines, and opportunities. In addition, FPAC also shared Spanish translations of the farm loan discovery and service center locator tools. FPAC is expanding financial partnerships with several groups to expand the number and type of service providers who can help maximize access to culturally appropriate languages. In FY22, FPAC filled 150 limited English proficiency requests, resulting in 723 products spanning 30 separate languages. FPAC currently has a contract in place to provide a full range of translation services in support of Agency technical assistance efforts.
    • In FY 2023, Rural Development (RD) has entered into a new contract with a new provider for telephone interpretation and document translation to assist RD customers who have limited English proficiency.
Selected Resources

2. Partnering with Trusted Technical Assistance Providers

Avon Standard, an urban farmer from Cleveland, Ohio (right, foreground) speaks to Terry Cosby, former state conservationist in Ohio (left, background) and others in Standard’s hoop house during an urban tour on his farm in 2016

USDA is partnering with trusted technical assistance providers to ensure that underserved producers and communities have the support they need to access USDA programs. For farm programs, this includes improved assistance and capacity for the skills involved in successful farm management, such as business planning, market development, financial knowledge, and others. For rural communities, the strategy is to help communities build the futures they envision, assisting them to navigate and access programs from across the federal government and other providers, secure technical assistance, and develop local capacity. Other programs require analogous strategies.


  • USDA Launches the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Learning Network and Project Dashboard Resources. In April 2023, USDA announced the launch of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Learning Network. The Network include all project partners; it will generate key lessons to inform what makes markets for climate-smart commodities successful and meaningful for farmers, forest landowners, and rural communities. As projects get underway, learnings and summary data will be shared publicly. As a result of the $3.1 billion Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities effort, 141 projects are now entering their formal implementation phases. Producers interested in participating are invited to visit the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Active Projects Dashboard to find projects in their areas.
  • Conservation Efforts in Pacific Island Communities

    • In May 2023, NRCS announced an additional $1 million funding opportunity for agreements that more equitably address Pacific Island Area (PIA) specific conservation issues. By participating in the PIA Conservation Solutions program, accepted projects will receive technical assistance and resources to address local natural resource issues and develop conservation leadership initiatives at the state and community levels in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    • In April 2023, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced that up to $500,000 is available for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) in the Pacific Islands Area. CIG projects help stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies for agricultural production. This will help address challenges associated with climate change that farmers and ranchers need to overcome in order to develop more resilient food systems and better access to local nutrition in the Pacific Islands region. This group of projects must be carried out in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

  • Investments in Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hubs Partnership. In May 2023, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture And Food Research Initiative (AFRI) announced $9 million in grants to support projects that provide effective, translatable and scalable approaches to address climate change through regional partnerships. These grants will help recipients develop and deliver science-based information and resources that are regionally specific and thus more equitably address the climate needs of specific communities.

  • NRCS Provides Conservation Innovation Grants to Producers in the Pacific Islands Area
    In April 2023, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced that up to $500,000 is available for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) in the Pacific Islands Area. CIG projects help stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies for agricultural production. This will help address challenges associated with climate change that farmers and ranchers need to overcome in order to develop more resilient food systems and better access to local nutrition in the Pacific Islands region. This group of projects must be carried out in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Rural Development (RD) is leading the Rural Partners Network (RPN), an all-of-government place-based program that brings together 20 federal agencies and regional commissions to help rural communities access resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability on their own terms. Federal agencies and commissions are collaborating to improve how we provide resources to help rural people build the futures they envision. The RPN was launched in April 2022 and expanded in November 2022, to now include 36 community networks across 10 states and Puerto Rico. In May 2023, $394 million in awards were announced to provide loans and grants to support 52 projects to support long-term visions for strong, local economies.
  • In March 2023, RMA announced that it would invest $2 million to assist organizations serving underserved agricultural producers and communities with completing applications for funding opportunities. Through a Cooperative Agreement and grant application, RMA and its partners will provide technical and grant writing assistance.
  • American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Cooperators. Underserved farmers and ranchers have historically lacked equitable access to knowledge and information that could aid them in accessing and navigating USDA programs. USDA is helping ensure that underserved farmers, ranchers, and foresters have the tools, programs and support they need to succeed in agriculture by investing over $100 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding in over 30 organizations to provide technical assistance connecting underserved producers with USDA programs and services. So far two cohorts of organizations have been selected for their proven track records working with underserved producer communities, such as veterans, new farmers, limited resource producers, and producers living in high-poverty areas. They are providing targeted support for producers to mitigate losing lands, develop sound business plans, expand revenues and their markets, and unlock access to capital.
  • NRCS Cooperative Agreements. Under American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Section 1006, in FY 2022, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) invested $50 million into their Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements. 118 cooperative agreements were created to fund two-year projects that support underserved farmers and ranchers with climate-smart agriculture and forestry by expanding the delivery of conservation assistance. On February 27, 2023, NRCS opened up a second round of cooperative agreement funding, of up to $70 million, seeking applications for two-year projects that encourage participation in NRCS programs, especially in underserved communities and among urban and small-scale producers.
  • 2501 Program Partners. Since 2010, the 2501 Program has awarded 615 grants totaling more than $194 million; 2501 Program partners provide problem-solving strategies that help underserved producers. Current grants focus on, for example, resolving heirs’ property issues, fostering financial literacy and business planning skills, and recouping losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is run by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. Recent grant cohorts include:
    • October 2022: $36 million awarded to 52 organizations
    • April 2023: $45 million opportunity announced; applications are due July 25, 2023.
  • Expanding Climate Hub Capacity. In January 2022, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) expanded the capacity of USDA’s Climate Hubs by investing $1.5 million in the collaborative Native Climate project, which is designed to serve as a “climate clearinghouse” of tools and technologies to support climate resilience planning and actions by Tribal agriculture producers in the Intermountain West. Led by the Desert Research Institute, the project supports climate adaptation efforts in Native American communities by building new connections between Indigenous knowledge and western scientific data.
  • Access to wastewater solutions. In August 2022, Rural Development (RD) launched a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia, as well as the tribal nations of Santo Domingo Pueblo and San Carlos Apache, to create the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative. The new initiative is being piloted in 11 communities whose residents lack basic wastewater management essential to protecting their health and the environment. EPA and USDA are jointly providing technical assistance resources to help underserved communities identify and pursue federal funding opportunities—including from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—to address wastewater needs and eliminate harmful exposure to backyard sewage by conducting community wastewater assessments, developing solutions, identifying and pursuing funding, and building long-term capacity. This partnership is one of the ways USDA promotes a healthy community and environment by making sure families and children have clean water and safe sewer systems that prevent pollution and runoff.
  • Investments in Minority Serving Institutions. Numerous USDA mission areas, including Food Safety; Marketing and Regulatory Program; Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs; Research, Education, and Economics; and Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement are making investments in programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to enlarge students’ access to curriculum, internships, and training that expand career opportunities in USDA-related fields; and leverage MSIs’ ability to provide technical assistance to assist underserved and veteran farmers to own and operate successful farms. For example, in FY 2022, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invested $14 million in Centers of Excellence at Land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities, funding six collaborative research centers focused on subjects ranging from rural prosperity and climate-smart technology, to food security, health, and nutrition. These investments will strengthen research, workforce development and extension programs that support underserved producers and communities. NIFA awarded $302 million in FY 2022 to MSIs: $275 million in investments in 1890 Land-grant Universities (designated Historically Black Colleges and Universities), $19 million to Hispanic-Serving institutions, and $8.3 million to 1994 Land-grant Tribal Colleges. In FY 2023, approximately $62 million has been invested to date. Funding totals include American Rescue Plan investments that build capacity for teaching, research, and extension activities critical to USDA and USDA partners’ efforts to prepare students for careers in food, agriculture, and natural resources sciences.
  • Promoting diversity in agricultural economics. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine reports a significant underrepresentation of minorities in science and engineering fields. In November 2022, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) entered a new partnership with the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association to increase diversity in the field of agricultural economics. The goal is to expand the number of students from underrepresented groups who pursue advanced degrees and careers in agricultural economics, supporting a new generation of skilled professionals more representative of today’s society.
Selected Resources

3. Directing USDA Programs to Those Who Need Them the Most

The Dennis Family outside of their house

USDA programs are targeting those who need them the most, including by increasing infrastructure investments that benefit underserved communities. USDA’s mission is “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.” We cannot fulfill this change without directing programs to those who need them the most. As part of this commitment, USDA will make continue its historic infrastructure investments and will further embed environmental justice as part of our mission. Directing programs to develop policies and activities that ensure USDA investments benefit underserved rural and Tribal communities will also help strengthen communities’ ability to withstand the disproportionate effects of climate change.


  • Restoring wetlands, watersheds and fortifying underserved communities. The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project, part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), announced a $17 million investment to bring together partners and landowners to restore critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. In partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the program aims to support broader efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. NRCS is funding five proposals that prioritize high-impact projects and assistance to underserved farmers and ranchers, through five new WREP projects including in the Arkansas/Mississippi Alluvial Valley, Texas Panhandle, and Missouri Bootheel.
  • Investing in Emergency Watershed Protection for communities. USDA is investing $265 million in 28 Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) infrastructure projects across 16 states impacted by extreme weather events. The investment will help communities recover from natural disasters and prepare for future disasters through the development of watershed infrastructure, optional buyouts in in Limited Resource Areas (where housing values and income are less than a state’s average and unemployment is at least twice the U.S. average), and other related projects. NRCS announced the EWP Buyout Option in limited resource areas within the states of Florida and West Virginia as well as for select communities that are impacted by constant flooding or severe erosion due to a natural disasters. An interactive map has been developed to see communities designated as Limited Resource Areas.
  • Improving water quality and addressing ground water depletion. NRCS's Regional Conservationist Partnership Program (RCPP) announced critical financial assistance for producers in Kansas’s’ South Fork Republican River (SFRR) watershed who are eligible to receive financial assistance under the RCPP Program. The project will provide funding to landowners along the river to address plant pest pressure, groundwater depletion, and water quality issues. Additionally, to better fortify community and producer resources, as needed, the RCPP project may also provide funds for alternate water sources for livestock, prescribed grazing, and other practices.
  • Women Of Wildlife Services (WOWS) Outreach: WOWS, a dedicated outreach program under the Wildlife Services program, took part in the Wildlife Service New York Program State Meeting held from April 4th to 6th, 2023. As part of the meeting, WOWS Administrator Lanna Rogers represented APHIS WOWS and delivered a talk on the theme of "Women in Wildlife." By highlighting the contributions and experiences of women in the field of wildlife services, APHIS WOWS promotes gender equity and provides a platform for women to share their expertise and perspectives.
  • Seeking to increase conservation efforts, enhance public lands access, and improve infrastructure while creating thousands of jobs. In May 2023, the Departments of Agriculture and Interior’s proposed FY 2024 budgets sought $2.8 billion in investments to enhance public lands access, address essential and deferred infrastructure maintenance projects, and support conservation efforts across the country. Authorized by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), the budget includes recreation opportunities to be provided across the country, significant natural areas and cultural heritage sites to be protected, and grants to states and local governments to support conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. This will include addressing infrastructure projects that are essential for communities that rely on Forest Service roads to get to schools, stores, and hospitals. Learn more about the associated programs:

  • Access to Trees and Green Spaces in Disadvantaged Urban Communities. On April 12, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $1 billion in grants to increase equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban and community forests. This investment will enable the Forest Service to support projects to improve public health, increase access to nature, and deliver economic and ecological benefits to cities, towns and tribal communities across the country. The grant funding is available to community-based organizations, tribes, municipal and state governments, nonprofit partners, universities, and other eligible entities as they work to increase tree cover in urban spaces and boost equitable access to nature while bolstering resilience to extreme heat, storm-induced flooding, and other climate impacts.
  • D-SNAP for Low-income Residents in Disaster Stricken Areas. Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides vital essential food assistance to residents struggling with the aftermath of severe storms and tornadoes. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must either live or work in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Eligible households will receive one month of benefits – equal to the maximum monthly amount for a SNAP household of their size. Recent coverage includes:
  • Helping distressed farm loan borrowers. Kicking off a multi-tier process under Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Section 22006 to provide assistance to distressed farm loan borrowers, the Farm Service Agency expedited assistance to borrowers whose farm operations were at financial risk, with the goal of keeping them farming and promoting their long-term stability. This work accompanies ongoing efforts to improve farm lending programs with a focus on proactive loan service and support to keep farmers farming.
    • In October 2022 the Farm Service Agency (FSA) provided nearly $800 million in assistance to delinquent direct and guaranteed farm loan borrowers and borrowers who had their farms foreclosed on and still had remaining debt.
    • In March 2023, USDA announced $123 million in additional assistance.
    • In May 2023, USDA announced an additional $130 million in automatic financial assistance. The FSA will begin reviewing individual distressed borrower assistance requests from direct loan borrowers who missed a recent installment or are unable to make their next scheduled installment.
  • USDA Invests to Improve Renewal Energy Infrastructure. $10 million will be granted by Rural Development under the Rural Energy Pilot Program (REPP) to support solutions to address high energy costs and pollution through renewable energy systems. A portion of the awarded funds may also be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, efficiency and weatherization to help rural and historically underserved communities.
    • On April 11, 2023, the Biden Harris administration announced an investment of $6.6 million to help people living in rural towns develop community-sized renewable energy projects that will help them lower their energy costs and create jobs; this followed an earlier announcement that $1.1 million would be awarded to a Puerto Rican community under the same program.
  • Rural investments where they are most needed. In 2022, informed by its new systems to better direct investments where they are needed most, RD invested over $5 billion in underserved rural communities for projects such as expanding access to housing, water infrastructure, and high-speed internet.
  • In support of its 10-Year Wildfire Strategy, in FY22 the Forest Service (FS) integrated consideration of social vulnerability in assessments of vulnerability to wildfire risk to promote effective, equitable implementation of wildfire risk reduction. In March 2023, Forest Service invested nearly $200 million to reduce wildfire risk to communities across state, private, and tribal lands; 100 project proposals benefit 22 states and seven Tribes, as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program.
  • Agricultural research where it’s most needed. On March 21, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an investment of more than $9.4 million for 12 projects through the Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative. This initiative provides grants for research and education to solve key problems of urban, indoor and emerging agricultural systems.
  • Ensuring Equitable Pandemic Assistance. Under the previous administration’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), only 4 percent of funding went to socially disadvantaged farmers (among those who identified their race and/or ethnicity). After identifying gaps in previous COVID-19 relief funding, USDA announced Pandemic Assistance for Producers, a newly established initiative committed to distributing and directing resources more equitably, especially to the people and sectors who need assistance the most. Among other funding opportunities, the Pandemic Assistance Initiative includes re-opening signup for CFAP2; $700 million in grants to provide relief to farm and food workers affected by COVID-19; $700 million to provide relief for small producers, processors, farmers markets, and seafood vessels affected by COVID-19; and $2 million to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. CFAP2 saw an approximately 21 percent increase of CFAP enrollment applications from socially disadvantaged producers. More recently, FSA announced that it would be making automatic Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) top-up payments to underserved producers.
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Management Assistance Program provides funding for eligible producers in sixteen states where participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program is historically low. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming. Applications involving projects that benefit historically underserved communities receive higher rankings.
  • In FY22, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invested $3 million to create a new program priority area, Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Across Food and Agricultural Systems, to address emergent needs following disasters and extreme weather events. In its inaugural year, NIFA awarded funding to projects that responded to drought, wildfire, floods, and hurricanes. Projects focused on commodities and opportunities important to underserved farmers, ranchers, and communities.
  • Improving safe, healthy work environments for farmworkers. In coordination with other federal agencies, in June 2022, USDA announced a pilot program utilizing up to $65 million in American Rescue Plan funding to provide support for agricultural employers in implementing robust health and safety standards to promote a safe, healthy work environment for both U.S. workers and workers hired from Northern Central American countries under the seasonal H-2A visa program. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) conducted three listening sessions in September 2022 to receive input from agricultural employer organizations, labor unions, farmworker advocates, farmworkers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  • USDA has 65 programs (PDF, 211 KB) that are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice 40 initiative, which has set an all-of-government goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
  • Including women in agricultural and STEM. Through the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Food for Progress Program, USDA proactively works with potential award recipients to design projects to promote the inclusion of women in agriculture businesses and STEM, through training and new technologies, in developing countries and emerging democracies. All active awards require award recipients to include explicit efforts in their projects to promote women in agricultural business opportunities and to report on their progress.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance. In 2021, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) allocated $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Emergency Rental Assistance to approximately 27,000 rent-overburdened tenants living in USDA Multi-Family Housing properties. RHS estimates that approximately 67% of tenants living in USDA Multi-Family properties are elderly or disabled. Additionally, RHS estimates that 30-40% of tenants living in USDA Multi-Family properties are people of color.
  • Support for producers with disabilities. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is currently investing $13 million in AgrAbility funds to support projects in 21 states. The program provides vital education, assistance, and support to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Throughout its 30-year history, the program has provided direct, on-site services to more than 13,600 people.
  • Vaccine education where it’s needed. The EXCITE program (PDF, 253 KB) works by cooperative agreement between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Cooperative Extension System (CES) to deliver vaccine education to hard-to-reach communities across the nation. The program is particularly effective in rural, minority and Native American communities. In FY 2022, EXCITE projects were active in almost every state as well as on 17 Native American reservations. These projects focused on reaching rural and medically underserved communities.
Selected Resources

4. Expanding Equitable Access to USDA Nutrition Assistance Programs

Paper bag with essential nutrition supplies given to elderly person at food distribution point

USDA is expanding equitable access to USDA nutrition assistance programs to ensure that those who qualify are able to participate, those who participate get benefits that are meaningful, and those who receive those benefits can use them conveniently and in ways that promote improvements in their health and well-being.


  • Increasing access to locally grown fresh produce. The Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) uses cooperative agreements to provide up to $900 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding for state, tribal and territorial governments to purchase foods produced within the state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination to help support local, regional, and underserved producers. Most recently USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has taken steps to support food sovereignty with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians by signing a cooperative agreement through LFPA. This agreement will help the tribe to purchase and distribute locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers. With the LFPA funds, the tribe will enable members of the community to build on existing offerings by sourcing local, healthy foods of their preference through a food voucher program developed in partnership with local food producers and harvesters.
    • To increase access to locally grown fresh produce, NRCS announced in June 2023 a grant opportunity of $75,000 available for communities in New Jersey to establish community and pollinator gardens. The project aims to provide conservation learning experiences to urban communities, improve access to healthy and affordable food at the local level, enhance biodiversity, reduce the urban heat island effect, and increase participation among historically underserved urban farmers.
  • Promoting nutritional health, self-sufficiency, and well-being through education. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) was founded as the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income populations; it remains at the forefront of nutrition education efforts to reduce nutrition insecurity of low-income families and youth today. Recently, EFNEP along with Growing Together Montana provided grants to Master Gardeners and communities to start, convert or maintain gardens for the purpose of donating fruits and vegetables to food pantries or other organizations. Over half of the six projects that received funding were located within or bordering an Indigenous community. In total, 8,200 individuals gained access to fresh garden produce through the 28 partner agencies that distributed produce donations. The program with Fort Peck Tribes had 1,637 hours of volunteer labor ($41,300) and $55,000 of in-kind and donated equipment support. The result was 4,695 pounds of fresh food supporting hundreds of households and two new community gardens. Locally grown garden produce led to several food tasting events including a chili tasting, three using the garden produce, and a salsa tasting with produce in a kit to make their own salsa.
  • Equitable Access to Healthy Food. On March 2, 2023, USDA’s Economic Research Service announced a partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve equitable access to healthy foods by administering $1.4 million in new research grants to 14 research institutions. By February 2025, this collective will expand research on food policy, food retail markets, consumer behaviors related to food purchases and diet and USDA’s nutrition assistance programs. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will connect this diverse set of researchers to ERS’ Consumer Food Data System (CFDS) to help inform and enhance future policy on food and health.
  • Supporting access to a nutritious, practical, budget-conscious diet. To reflect the true price of a cost-conscious, healthy diet today, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) re-evaluated the Thrifty Food Plan, which forms the basis of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. As a result, in FY22, SNAP benefits increased by about 21 percent on average—about $1.19 per person, per day. According to the Urban Institute, the increase to SNAP benefits kept 2.3 million people out of poverty, reducing overall poverty by 4.7 percent and child poverty by 8.6 percent.
  • Addressing children’s food insecurity. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer plans in 53 states and territories in FY22. Through these plans, states delivered over $18 billion in food assistance to more than 35 million children whose access to meals at school or in childcare was compromised during the school year by the COVID health emergency, and who faced increased food insecurity during the summer months.
  • Improving emergency food assistance. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is awarding $100 million in TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) Reach & Resiliency grants to state agencies. The first $40 million round of grants is supporting projects such as: professional studies and assessments of TEFAP’s reach to inform improvements; cultural competency training for eligible recipient agency staff; expanded mobile distribution infrastructure; critical freezing and cooling investments in rural areas; and targeted outreach activities in tribal areas. An additional $60 million of grant funding in FY2023 will further support program reach in underserved areas.
  • Improving online food access. In February 2023, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) advanced online shopping in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). For SNAP, FNS has expanded online shopping to 49 states plus the District of Columbia, enabling 99% of SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase food online. In November 2022, 4 million SNAP households shopped online, up from 35,000 households in March 2020. For WIC, FNS is working with the Gretchen Swanson Center to pilot online shopping in five states. FNS is also making available waivers and funding to support other states in moving toward online shopping.
  • Modernizing SNAP. On March 8, 2023, FNS announced partnership with Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oklahoma to pilot mobile payment technology. SNAP participants in these states will have the ability to use mobile payment options to complete Point of Sale transactions. The mobile payment pilots are one of many actions FNS is taking to modernize SNAP. FNS is also making available waivers and funding to support other states in moving toward online shopping.
  • Modernizing WIC. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is modernizing the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. In modernizing WIC, there’s a focus on connecting more eligible families to WIC and strengthening service delivery to support better maternal and child health outcomes, with a focus on addressing disparities in program delivery. As part of this modernization, there is a careful investment in technology in applying for the program, interacting with staff, receiving benefits, accessing nutrition education, and shopping options. Both WIC and FMNP provide participants with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while supporting local farmers, farmers’ markets, and American agriculture.
    • In May 2023, FNS and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) awarded $16 million in subgrants to 36 projects aimed at testing innovative outreach strategies to increase participation and equity in WIC. The WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO) aims to expand partnerships with community organizations and use community-level data to develop and implement innovative WIC outreach strategies.
    • For the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, USDA is supporting modernization and expansion efforts with $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Food System Transformation funds. Support for the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is part of a larger effort to modernize WIC, also funded through ARPA, with one round of grant funding awarded in FY2022 and a second announced April 2023. States can apply for project funding to improve online shopping, mobile access and support, and acceptance of electronic payments in the WIC Farmers Market nutrition programs.
    • FNS has also developed a multifaceted five-year national WIC workforce strategy that will recruit and train WIC employees to best serve WIC families. On February 16, 2023, USDA announced an investment of $750,000 to strengthen workforce diversity, which is expected to increase cultural competency and culturally responsive care in WIC, in turn increasing participation and improving the health of participants.
  • Making WIC more flexible. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule on November 21, 2022, to revise regulations governing the foods prescribed to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The proposed changes are intended to provide WIC participants with a wider variety of foods that align with the latest nutritional science as well as provide WIC State agencies with greater flexibility to prescribe and tailor food packages that accommodate participants’ special dietary needs and personal and cultural food preferences.
  • Investing in School Meals to Support Healthy Kids. In March 2023, USDA expanded support for access to school meal programs by awarding $50 million in grants. The department also announced $10 million in grants for schools to expand nutrition education, and proposed regulatory changes giving more schools the option to provide free healthy meals to students. In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it signed a cooperative agreement with Nebraska for more than $1.4 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.
  • Improving SNAP administration. In April 2021, USDA began to provide States with $1.135 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support and enhance their administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), including investing in technology to improve access to SNAP benefits, exploring opportunities to better reach vulnerable populations, and improving reporting on program outcomes to enable data-driven decision making.
  • Expanding access to food in emergency shelters. In April 2021, USDA expanded eligibility for homeless young adults under the age of 25 to be able to receive meals at emergency shelters participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to reach the most vulnerable populations experiencing food hardship due to the pandemic under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has expanded the scope of Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program’s (GusNIP) Produce Prescription and Nutrition Incentive programs, which encourages families and individuals to eat more healthfully by increasing low-income families’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most recently, in November 2022, NIFA announced a $59.4 million investment.
  • Improving lives, globally. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program provides school meals and technical assistance aimed at reducing hunger, increasing literacy, and improving the health and dietary practices of school-aged children globally. In FY 2022, USDA selected eight proposed projects valued at $220 million to be funded over the four- to five-year term of the projects, anticipating reaching over a million direct beneficiaries. In support of reducing hunger and increasing literacy rates, McGovern-Dole funding helps improve school infrastructure. In Rwanda, schools supported by McGovern-Dole have constructed new kitchens, food storage rooms, and energy saving cookstoves. The new energy saving stoves have reduced energy costs from $50 per month to about $18. Similar construction of energy efficient cookstoves has taken place in Liberia and Cambodia, among other countries.
  • Supporting nutrition education. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) continues to provide education and training for underserved communities through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Launched in 1969, EFNEP was the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income populations; it remains at the forefront of nutrition education efforts to reduce American nutrition insecurity.
  • Non-discrimination in nutrition programs. In September 2022, FNS reaffirmed that its nutrition programs are open to all eligible people, making clear that the agency’s non-discrimination statement, which applies across all our programs, includes gender identity and sexual orientation. FNS also issued guidance that makes clear if an LGBTQ+ individual experiences discrimination by or within a federal nutrition assistance program, they have an avenue to file an antidiscrimination complaint.
Selected Resources

5. Advancing Equity in Federal Procurement

"The reality is most people in America work in and with small business. That most of the work of building and supporting the economy is done by small business owners. During the pandemic... it was small business that kept us afloat." - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA is advancing equity in Federal procurement, by, underserved and disadvantaged businesses, unfamiliar with contracting, the tools, and resources available to increase access to funding opportunities and expand their network to develop critical local, State, regional, and National relationships. Additionally, USDA is collaborating with Federal partners to administer a no-cost business development series, entitled a “Path to Prosperity”, to provide un-banked and under-banked small businesses, communities, and individuals useful information, tools, resources, and opportunities through financial literacy and access to capital to generate economic growth and prosperity.




  • USDA launched its Procurement Forecast website, located at Forecast of Business Opportunities. With this tool, small businesses can easily search and filter USDA procurement forecasts, identify the opportunities most relevant to them, and download the results for easy reference. Already accessible to users is the forecast data for fiscal years 2023 to 2025. The new tool dramatically improves data transparency, increases accuracy, provides additional options for data fields, and allows for more frequent updates.
  • Supporting small businesses. USDA is supporting small business growth and helping small business owners build generational wealth throughout the United States, including for firms owned by underrepresented individuals. This Department-wide work is led by USDA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) (PDF, 1.3 MB), which rolled out a new small business landing page to make resources and opportunities easier to access and understand. An annual procurement forecast is now published on the OSDBU website to allow small businesses to plan for upcoming opportunities.
  • Achieving results. As announced in the Department’s 2022 Equity Action Plan, USDA implemented a 21.5% Small Disadvantaged Business contracting goal for FY 2021; the table below shows that goal was met and surpassed. In FY 2022, the new goal of 21.3 percent was, likewise, met and surpassed.

USDA Small Business Goals and Results, FY 2020-2022


Women-owned Small Businesses

Small Disadvantaged Business

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business

HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone)

All Small Businesses

Overall Federal Goal


11% (5% in 2020)




FY 2020 Results






FY 2021 Results






FY 2022 Results (preliminary)






  • Mission area progress. The Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Acquisitions Division has a Small Business Coordinator who works with small businesses, including those that are socially or economically disadvantaged, to identify potential contracting opportunities. These include opportunities available through existing statutory programs that authorize various types of competitive small business set-asides, as well as sole-source contracting authorities, such as the Section 8(a) Business Development program. The coordinator makes thousands of contacts with small businesses, participates in numerous internal and external outreach events, and hosts multiple FPAC outreach events each year. Because of these and other efforts, in FY 2022, 48.8% of FPAC’s contracting was with firms in the Small and Disadvantaged Business category.
  • Expanding producer access to child nutrition programs. Equity in procurement is a goal for the programs USDA funds as well as USDA’s own purchases. In the 2023 Farm to School Census, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will include new questions to identify characteristics of the producers that the School Food Authorities (SFA) purchase from, including whether they are minority- or women-owned businesses. Additionally, FNS has worked with the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the National Farm to School Network to develop and disseminate a producer-focused farm-to-school training curriculum designed to help agricultural producers build their capacity to launch or expand sales of their products to Child Nutrition Programs.
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) entered into a cooperative agreement with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) for a project to examine equitable access in Child Nutrition (CN) Programs. As part of this project FRAC will award sub-grants to organizations to identify barriers to equitable access in CN programs and strategies to help overcome those barriers.
Selected Resources

6. Upholding Federal Trust and Treaty Responsibilities to Indian Tribes

The USDA Hall of Tribal Nations

USDA is upholding Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, removing barriers to access USDA programs, expanding Tribal self-determination policies, and incorporating indigenous values and perspectives in program design and delivery.



USDA has restored and empowered a free-standing Office of Tribal Relations, which is collaborating with agencies on work that fits broadly into three areas: 1) Removing the unique barriers to Indigenous and Tribal access to USDA programs and services, 2) Promoting Tribal self-determination throughout USDA, and 3) Adapting USDA’s programs to include Tribal/Indigenous values and perspectives. For many more achievements on this commitment, read the 2022 USDA Tribal Accomplishments (PDF, 229 KB).

  • Fortifying biosecurity measures for Tribal Partners. In May 2023, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP), through APHIS, awarded $566,626 to support four new cooperative agreements with Tribal partners. The projects will enhance these tribes' animal disease response capabilities and strengthen APHIS's relationship with Tribal partners. Funded projects assist tribal nations in developing and practicing plans to quickly control high-consequence disease outbreaks, enhance producer biosecurity measures, support animal movement decisions, and provide education to tribal livestock owners.
  • From April 24 to May 1, USDA conducted Tribal Consultations addressing economic development; food, safety, and trade; farming, ranching, and conservation; forests and public lands management; and education and research.
  • The Forest Service (FS)’s Tribal Relations Action Plan on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, released in February 2023, provides guidance on fulfilling the agency’s federal trust responsibility, honoring its treaty obligations, and supporting Tribal self-determination. With this tool in hand, Forest Service can manage federal lands and waters in a manner that seeks to protect treaty, religious, spiritual, subsistence, and cultural interests of federally recognized Tribes. Affirming the Department’s commitment to implementing the Plan, a March 10, 2023, announcement committed $12 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be invested in fiscal year 2023 to complete projects in support of the Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA). Projects to be funded through this investment focus on improving relationships, co-stewardship, restoring traditionally significant plants, and reducing hazardous fuels while incorporating indigenous knowledge, creating job opportunities for tribal crews and increasing youth engagement.
  • Aligning USDA structures to acknowledge Tribal sovereignty. Tribal colleges are owned by Tribal governments. Honoring the call from tribal leaders to acknowledge this sovereign relationship, in February 2023, USDA moved the USDA Office of Tribal Colleges and Universities to the Office of Tribal Relations.
  • Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative. In November 2022, the Secretary launched this USDA-wide initiative, challenging all of USDA to reimagine our food and agricultural programs from an Indigenous perspective. The first year of the initiative delivered dozens of recipes and videos demonstrating how to add foraged and Indigenous foods to foods available through USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), created a manual to help interested cattle producers transition to bison, and created several regional indigenous seed saving hubs.
  • In November 2022, the Farm Service Agency announced new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) partnerships with three tribal nations in the Great Plains, covering 3.1 million acres, to help conserve, maintain, and improve grassland productivity, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. These are the first-ever CREP agreements with tribal nations.
  • In November 2022, the Forest Service entered 11 new co-stewardship agreements with nine tribes, involving eight National Forests. Another 60 agreements with 45 tribes are in process. Tribal co-stewardship agreements protect the treaty, religious, subsistence, and cultural interests of federally recognized Indian Tribes in the management of national forests and grasslands.
  • Rural Development (RD) made historic changes to the ReConnect Broadband Program in August 2022. Applicants are now required to receive tribal permissions to use ReConnect funding to provide broadband service on tribal lands. The program is also setting aside a significant amount of grant funding for tribal projects serving tribal lands, with no matching funds required. The resulting increase in applications from tribes and tribal entities led to additional grant awards to tribal applicants.
  • USDA will establish a tribal-focused Regional Food Business Center to provide technical assistance needed for tribal producers and businesses to access new and existing markets, and federal, state, and local resources.
  • In September 2022, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued new guidance and is training states on tribal consultation requirements related to SNAP implementation.
  • To further increase tribal food sovereignty, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has, to date, awarded $5.7 million to eight tribes for self-determination demonstration projects that give them more options to directly select and purchase foods through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. FNS will evaluate the projects to understand their impacts on access and participation, informing further expansion of the effort. FNS will award up to an additional $6 million to support new projects in FY2023.
  • New partnerships. Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota is partnering with two tribal colleges in North Dakota to study indigenous seeds and propagation techniques, and develop best practices for ARS sites to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into research and work.
  • Rural Development (RD) instituted a Tribal Training Program — virtual staff training built around four core principles: trust responsibility, tribal consultation, tribal sovereignty, and the historic relationship between tribes and the federal government.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is collaborating with Native American agriculture and natural resources organizations to host regional Emergency Preparedness and Response Training. In FY22, 102 tribal officials representing 41 tribal nations participated, receiving technical assistance to develop animal and plant health emergency response plans, initiating memorandum of understanding discussions, coordinating logistical exercises, and identifying response vulnerabilities.
  • In partnership with the Department of the Interior, in November 2022 the Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program allocated $40 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to assist relocation of Alaskan Native villages due to climate change, erosion, and flooding. Seven villages have been chosen from a set of the highest-risk villages. The funding will cover feasibility studies, watershed planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, and move design.
  • Recognizing Tribal importance in organizational names. Forest Service has renamed its “State and Private Forestry” organization “State, Private, and Tribal Forestry.”
  • Assisting Tribal establishments with federal inspections. In October 2022, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) assisted two tribal nation establishments—Est. 47879 Looped Square Meats (Muscogee Creek Nation) and M1007 Cherokee Nation Meat Processing LLC.—to come under federal inspection to slaughter and process cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Both establishments also slaughter and process bison under a state inspection system. Bison is not an “amenable species” under the Federal Meat Inspection Act; therefore, FSIS usually charges for the service of providing bison inspection. To provide financial relief to a tribal establishment, FSIS coordinated with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to issue M1007 a state grant of inspection, which includes no-cost bison inspection.
Selected Resources

7. Committing Unwaveringly to Civil Rights

All Justice for All logo

USDA has committed unwaveringly to civil rights, working to equip its civil rights offices with the tools, skills, capacity, and processes essential to effectively and efficiently enforce and uphold civil rights.



  • Rebuilding civil rights capabilities is critical. USDA has committed to fully funding and staffing the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) and agency-level civil rights offices and has ensured that executive performance plans incorporate equity and civil rights compliance.
  • Improving processing times for complaints. USDA has drastically improved the timeliness of its Equal Employment Opportunity investigations, decision making, and appeals. Processing time for USDA-customer discrimination complaints has been reduced from three years to approximately 16 months—the quickest in over a decade, though still requiring improvement.
  • A foreclosure moratorium has been implemented for Rural Development home-loan borrowers while those customers’ program complaints are processed.
  • Mandatory training. USDA now provides mandatory training to all staff on unconscious bias and strategies to counter bias’s effects.
  • Non-discrimination in nutrition programs. FNS has reaffirmed that its nutrition programs are open to all eligible people, making clear that the agency’s non-discrimination statement, which applies across all our programs, includes gender identity and sexual orientation. FNS also issued guidance that makes clear if an LGBTQ+ individual experiences discrimination by or within a federal nutrition assistance program, they have an avenue to file an antidiscrimination complaint. (Sept. 2022)
Selected Resources

8. Operating with Transparency and Accountability

Rural Investments chart

USDA will operate transparently and accountably, providing information on Department programs that Congress, stakeholders, and the general public need to hold us to account on our equity agenda, and working systematically to collect and take account of public feedback.




Posted Data

  • USDA launched its Procurement Forecast website, located at Forecast of Business Opportunities. With this tool, small businesses can easily search and filter USDA procurement forecasts, identify the opportunities most relevant to them, and download the results for easy reference. Already accessible to users is the forecast data for fiscal years 2023 to 2025. The new tool dramatically improves data transparency, increases accuracy, provides additional options for data fields, and allows for more frequent updates.
  • Rural Development (RD) launched its Rural Data Gateway in February 2023. With 20 new integrated Rural Investment Dashboards and visualizations, the Gateway makes more than a decade of Rural Development’s investment history instantly accessible to the public. Its simple interface allows users to easily sift through obligations data from more than 65 of the loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs Rural Development administers. The dashboards highlight potentially underserved areas of need. Rural Data Gateway information is updated monthly and can be downloaded.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) posts data from the Census of Agriculture, with abundant information about the Nation’s farmers including a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land, whether rural or urban, growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count, if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Ag Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. The 2017 Census information is posted; the 2023 Census is underway. NASS is undertaking significant outreach to promote participation in the Ag Census, which is an opportunity for full representation in data used by decisionmakers to allocate agricultural funding and resources.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has made technological advances in collection and distribution of important agricultural data. In January 2022, NASS launched a new respondent portal aimed at reducing the time needed for agricultural producers to complete surveys and otherwise lower barriers for responses. NASS will reach more producers, allowing them to provide data that reflects the broad diversity of America’s farmers and ranchers. Also last year, NASS conducted its first-ever livestream of the Secretary’s data report briefing. Now, several briefings are available for real-time viewing as data is being released. Livestreaming improves equitable public access to NASS’s data and increases transparency and understanding of NASS’s processes.
  • The Farm Service Agency (FSA) posts substantial annual data about Farm Lending.
  • FNS posts detailed information about nutrition assistance programs and their participants, including comparisons to eligible populations by demographic subgroup.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service also posts information about conservation program participation.

Collection and response to feedback

  • The USDA Equity Commission is an independent 41-member body charged with evaluating USDA programs and services and developing recommendations on how the Department can reduce barriers. The Commission presented its first set of interim recommendations on February 28, 2023. USDA is committed to a thorough response, making needed changes so that Department programs, services, and decisions reflect the values of equity and inclusion, providing everyone a fair shot at resources and addressing longstanding inequities in agriculture.
  • Systematic outreach. Rural Development’s field offices are using specialized data mapping and outreach tools to engage the most socially vulnerable, distressed, and underserved communities across rural America. As of September 2022, 425 communities and more than 1100 entities were engaged. The agency has worked across programs to bring what it learned about barriers from these engagements into policy processes.
  • In FY 2023, the Farm Production and Conservation mission area is distributing three nationwide surveys: (1) Farm Service Agency Farm Loans Customer Feedback Survey, (2) Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program Customer Feedback Survey, and (3) FPAC Prospective Customer Survey focusing on gaining a better understanding of farmers, ranchers and forest managers who have not previously worked with FPAC. Each one of the three surveys has been translated into 13 languages and is available for completion online. FPAC is also actively seeking feedback through buttons on, FSA, NRCS, and RMA public-facing websites. Analytics of the survey results over time will provide insights into customer reactions to policy and operational changes, the simplified direct loan applications, and automation improvements.
  • To increase support for young and beginning farmers, USDA has identified Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinators from State Office staff of the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, and Risk Management Agency. These coordinators are leading development and implementation of beginning farmer education, outreach, and technical assistance plans for their states, including outreach to small, minority, and specialty crop producers as well as non-profits and other service providers. They are supported by regional coordinators and the USDA National Beginning Farmer Coordinator.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works to incorporate feedback from stakeholders into its policy and planning processes. For example, after hearing about the need at the Black Farmers Association and Professional Agricultural Workers conferences, APHIS is improving the marketing of its Feral Swine Program to ensure underserved farmers know how to access these resources.
Selected Resources