Skip to main content

Charlie Rawls: Amplifying Diverse Voices in the Process of Advancing Equity for All

Posted by Cecilia Hernandez, Designated Federal Officer, USDA Equity Commission in Equity
Apr 15, 2024
Equity Commission Member Charles (Charlie) Rawls

With a legal lens and knack for paying attention to detail, Equity Commission Member Charles (Charlie) Rawls has been the go-to source to help capture the essence of the Equity Commission’s intentions. With his firsthand experience working on civil rights reforms at the Department of Agriculture as General Counsel and his visionary collaboration and advocacy skills, Rawls contribution to the Final Report (PDF, 2.0 MB), released in February 2024, was an asset to the Equity Commission. For Rawls, the Equity Commission’s work has come full circle. His career was influenced by his time spent at USDA in the 1990s, serving in various roles which provided a foundation for his lifelong efforts addressing civil rights issues within the agricultural sector.

Following his time at USDA, Rawls served 18 years as general counsel at the Farm Credit Administration, underscoring his deep understanding of agricultural credit and regulatory intricacies and his vast knowledge and commitment to credit access for farmers and ranchers. With its mission to provide ideas for change that would address equity issues in USDA’s programs and services and strengthen accountability within the Department, Rawls felt called to serve on the Equity Commission. Since the start, Rawls supported the Commission’s interest in advancing equitable outcomes for farmers and communities that previously faced historical barriers to the benefits of USDA programs.

Touched by his experience inside and outside the USDA, Rawls embraces the unique challenge of fostering systemic change. In reflecting on what makes the Equity Commission different he remarks, “This is a group of individuals, many of whom are highly experienced and dedicated to the work. They have been invited to review the programs and policies of USDA and make recommendations so the Department can better serve the American people.”

In his leadership role as co-captain of the Equity Commission’s writing team, Rawls demonstrated his commitment to incorporating and amplifying diverse voices in the process of writing the Interim and Final reports. Often chiming in at public meetings in response to member presentations of the recommendations with a question or two, Rawls is known for his holistic and thorough approach in analyzing how the recommendations will impact those served by USDA. Rawls artfully collaborated with the other 40 distinguished members of the Equity Commission and its two specialized subcommittees, who represent the diversity of the United States and its territories and encompass a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, to craft impactful solutions for all of its diverse stakeholders.

After two years of dedicated work, including conducting six public meetings and engaging more than 2,000 stakeholders, on February 22, 2024, at the USDA’s National Equity Summit, the Equity Commission released its Final Report (PDF, 2.0 MB), which features 66 recommendations for institutional change at the USDA. The recommendations cover a range of topics, including advancing department-wide equity, working with farmers and ranchers day-to-day, supporting rural communities, and more.

For Rawls, success for the Equity Commission lies in tangible outcomes—where individuals seeking USDA services receive prompt and satisfactory assistance.

“Many employees at the Department of Agriculture want to see program and service delivery improve. Rawls said. “And that’s why they’re here…They can take part in reviewing the recommendations of the Commission and try to understand how they might be able to contribute.”

Beyond the walls of USDA, Rawls emphasizes the importance of community engagement in driving change. He envisions a collaborative approach, inviting stakeholders and grassroots organizations to actively participate in the implementation process. “This is an invitation for interested individuals, communities, and community groups to get involved and look at these recommendations,” Rawls said. “Many of them do recommend better and more engagement with community groups, and that's an invitation to come and make yourself known and to make recommendations and be involved.”

Responding to the recommendations (PDF, 4.7 MB) provided in the final report, USDA is taking action to ensure the Department’s programs, services, and decisions reflect the values of equity and inclusion. USDA has committed to create an organizational culture that supports, reinforces, and aims to ensure equal access to resources, closes the racial wealth gap, and addresses longstanding inequities. To encourage transparency in this process, USDA published a Department-wide Equity Action Plan as well as 14 Agency-level Equity Action Plans (EAPs).

To learn more about the Equity Commission and its final recommendations, you can visit

Category/Topic: Equity
Tags: USDA equity