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Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Intent to Nominate Basil Gooden, Ph.D. to Serve as Under Secretary for Rural Development

WASHINGTON, September 11, 2023 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered the following statement following President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Basil Gooden as Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Dr. Basil Gooden is a widely-respected, accomplished champion for affordable housing, community advancement, and economic development, and I applaud President Biden for nominating him to take the helm of our critical Rural Development mission area. Already we have been fortunate for Dr. Gooden’s leadership at USDA, where he has served as the Virginia State Director for Rural Development and most recently as the Director of State Operations for Rural Development, in which role he has been instrumental in our effort to help more communities take advantage of USDA programs and opportunities. His public service career is informed by a lifelong commitment to agriculture and rural development, stemming from his upbringing on the cattle farm his family still operates in Buckingham County, Virginia and a strong passion for continued learning. In 2016, Dr. Gooden became the first Black American to serve as Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia, after previously serving as Chief Deputy Director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. In addition to his roles at USDA Rural Development and in the Virginia State Government, Dr. Gooden has served as a County Committee Advisor in Buckingham and Cumberland Counties for USDA’s Farm Service Agency, and recently was a Visiting Scholar in the Sustainable Food Access Core of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Gooden’s firsthand knowledge of USDA programs and the needs of people who depend on them, his track record for advancing and improving polices that benefit agriculture and rural America, and his tenacity for teaching, advocating and learning make him an outstanding nominee for this position and a true asset for our department.”

One of USDA’s seven mission areas, Rural Development helps to expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas through numerous loan and grant programs. Dr. Gooden has served as Director of State Operations for Rural Development since July 2021, in which role he has led and supported USDA’s team of 47 Rural Development State Directors who extend USDA’s state-level leadership and help ensure the department’s investments reach all rural communities. If confirmed, Dr. Gooden would fill the under secretary position left vacant by Xochitl Torres Small, who was confirmed in July 2023 as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.


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