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Reflections from the Road: Equity Commission Connects with Minority Farmers and Landowners at Regional Equity Convening in North Carolina

Posted by Dr. Dewayne Goldmon in Equity
Jul 10, 2024
Equity Commission Member Charlie Rawls, Equity Commission Agriculture Subcommittee Member Michelle Hughes, USDA Senior Advisor for Racial Equity Dr. Dewayne Goldmon

On June 13-15, USDA Equity Commission members and I participated in the 18th annual Annual Minority Farmers and Land Owners Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. The annual conference is an event that brings farmers, landowners, and ranchers together with agriculture industry experts, assisting on making informed decisions regarding farm enterprises and retention of land.

The audience of about 150 attendees included farmers, landowners, and ranchers from across North Carolina and other states who own land and/or actively farming as well as USDA federal and state leaders and Equity Commission members. It was designed to be a learning opportunity for farmers, landowners, ranchers, and colleagues attending the conference.

As USDA’s Senior Advisor for Racial Equity, I had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion about the USDA Equity Commission’s final report (PDF, 2.0 MB) and its potential impact on communities nationwide.

Panel Speakers Equity Commission Member Charlie Rawls, Equity Commission Member Michelle Hughes, USDA Senior Advisor Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, and Executive Director of The Policy Center Eloris Speight

The panelists included Equity Commission Member Michelle Hughes (Co-Executive Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition), Equity Commission Member Charlie Rawls (former General Counsel at the Farm Credit Administration), and Eloris Speight (Executive Director of The Policy Center). The panelists lent their individual experience, expertise and perspectives from their tenured careers supporting farmers, landowners, and ranchers. Additionally, the Equity Commission Members shared their perspectives from serving on the Commission for the last two years and spoke to recommendations directly impacting farmers, landowners, and ranchers in the audience and around the country. Eloris Speight presented concerns from The Policy Center on the report’s recommendations that sparked a discussion with the audience members offering examples of long-standing problems particularly in the black community that need to be addressed.

Equity Commission Member Charlie Rawls highlighted, “The best part of the event was the direct engagement with the audience. Farmers and landowners spent the prior two days learning about important issues. Our panel then had an opportunity to discuss and respond to some of those issues, and present other topics addressed by the Commission in its final report. We learned as much from the farmers as they did from us.”

Equity Commission Member Michelle Hughes reflected, “We presented the Equity Commission recommendations to farmers who have historically been very critical of USDA. I was grateful for the opportunity to hear from stakeholders and how they feel about the Equity Commission’s Final Report directly. Feedback and accountability of this process are really important to me. I hope USDA will be courageous as they take that feedback into consideration and implement the recommendations in the report.”

Having the Equity Commission members engage directly with stakeholders is important for the Commission to understand more about the history, severity, and need for equitable solutions to some long-standing problems. Ultimately, this intelligence will result in more complete and sustainable recommendations—and actions—for USDA’s march towards equity.

This convening in North Carolina was an important milestone for stakeholder engagement and marks the fourth engagement by USDA since the National Equity Summit in February 2024 to discuss the recommendations with communities around the country. While the event highlighted the significant progress made by the USDA (PDF, 4.7 MB) and the Equity Commission’s Report, it also highlighted the need for considerable ongoing work that lies ahead on USDA’s journey to advance equity for all.

USDA continues its focus of improving access to programs and services for all with the upcoming Regional Equity Convening: Northeast on July 18 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Urban Ag Week.

Category/Topic: Equity