Skip to main content

USDA Highlights Opportunities to Advance Equity in Agricultural Communities at Third Regional Equity Convening

ALBANY, GA, May 16, 2024 – Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack attended the Regional Equity Convening for the Southeastern Region at the Sherrod Institute’s annual Farm Field Day in Albany, Georgia as the Department highlighted opportunities to advance equity in agricultural and rural communities. Regional leaders and local stakeholders from across the Southeast were invited to learn about the recommendations put forward in the Equity Commission Final Report (PDF, 2.0 MB) and to hear from USDA leadership on their efforts to advance equity through farmer access to programs, climate-smart practices, technical assistance, educational opportunities for the next generations, rural economic development, and more.

"When you provide equity, justice, and opportunity to one, you are, in essence, providing it to all, essentially making this country a more resilient, fairer, and more just place," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This department is fully focused on acknowledging its past and looking toward a better future where all who want to engage in agriculture have the opportunity to do so, and where resources and assistance are broadly accessible for all who want to participate.”

Equity Commission member Shirley Sherrod created the Sherrod Institute to highlight the importance of advancing equity in agriculture. Additional USDA leadership in attendance included Senior Advisor for Racial Justice and Equity Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, Natural Resources and Conservation Chief Terry Cosby, Director of the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement Dr. Lisa Ramirez, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Penny Brown Reynolds. Equity Commission Co-Chair Arturo S. Rodriguez and founding Co-Chair and former USDA Deputy Secretary Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh also addressed the convening attendees.

“Our office provides leadership and direction for the fair and equitable treatment of all USDA customers and employees while ensuring the delivery of quality programs and enforcement of civil rights,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Brown Reynolds. “At USDA, we are dedicated to the values of equity, inclusion and equal opportunity for each other and those we serve via our policies, programs, and services.”

USDA leadership heard directly from stakeholders and discussed the recommendations outlined in the Equity Commission Final Report. Additionally, the Southeast Regional Convening gathered partners and local stakeholders to learn about climate smart agriculture practices with a tour of the Sherrod Institute, participate in a farm expo with local vendors, and hear about the Department equity action plans and response to the Equity Commission’s final recommendations (PDF, 2.0 MB). Participants also took part in panel discussions focused on the next generation of agricultural leaders, USDA programs and services, forestry, heirs’ property preservation and resolution, and agrotourism.

After the presentation of the final report by the Equity Commission in February, USDA has taken swift action to begin addressing the recommendations that the Department has the authority to implement and to ensure its programs, services, and decisions reflect its values of equity and inclusion. These actions will create an organizational culture that supports, reinforces, and aims to ensure equitable access to resources, closes the racial wealth gap, and addresses the longstanding inequities in agriculture.

Final report recommendations have also been incorporated in the recently updated USDA Equity Action Plan, released on February 14, 2024. This plan is central to USDA’s commitment to equity and outlines the actions USDA will take to ensure Department resources reach underserved communities and those with the most need.

In February 2024, USDA held its first National Equity Summit which kicked off a series of regional equity engagements planned for the year. USDA launched these engagements, in collaboration with USDA Equity Commission members, to connect with stakeholders in communities across the country, to raise awareness about how the Department is revamping its programs and services to better serve the people. Since the February Summit, there have been two equity engagements – in Michigan and in Texas. Additional events will be held in other U.S. regions by Equity Commission members where USDA will continue to demonstrate its commitment to equity in agriculture.

Authorized and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and then reauthorized by the Inflation Reduction Act, the Equity Commission was established as an important component of the Department’s commitment to President Biden’s vision in Executive Order 13985 to Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. USDA is grateful for the Commission’s work in developing recommendations to advance equity and improve access to programs and services for all stakeholders and communities.

The Equity Commission’s final report includes 66 recommendations to support institutional change at USDA within the following areas: Advancing Department-wide Equity; Working with Farmers and Ranchers Day-to-Day; Supporting Farmworkers and their Families; Strengthening Research and Extension Programs; Ensuring Equitable Nutrition Assistance to those in Need; Recognizing Immigrants and their Families; Enhancing Rural Development Operations; Supporting Rural Communities; and Strengthening Rural Economies. The department has made great strides to respond to those recommendations that can be implemented through administrative action, while many would require legislative action by Congress to implement the needed changes. For more about USDA’s Equity Commission, please visit the Equity Commission website.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.