NASCOE Legislative Update on USDA Equity Commission Proceedings
Clint Bain and David McBryde, Legislative Co-Chairs
March 27, 2023
The Department of Agriculture recently released interim recommendations to advance equity across USDA’s programs. This release follows President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support or Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. We expect the Equity Commission to continue their work with final recommendations being submitted to Secretary Vilsack by the end of 2023. We appreciate the Equity Commission’s diligent work to address inequities at USDA and eliminate discrimination. The link to the full set of recommendations is below for your review. Equity Commission Reports | USDA
We want to thank our NASCOE membership for educating stakeholders about the Department’s review of Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs and the possible impact of altering or eliminating current structure and procedures. We are pleased to inform that the interim report does not recommend eliminating county committees, as was considered previously by Equity Commission members. The preliminary report, as highlighted below, contains several important priorities that our membership should review as we work to deliver USDA’s programs and provide the highest level of customer service.
The Equity Commission is recommending that minority advisors have the same voting rights as the elected committee members.
Consider a minimum percentage of representation required that is reflective of population for County Committee member vote. For example, if 10 percent of the county population consists of minority farmers and ranchers, approximately at a minimum, 10 percent of the County Committee representation should consist of voting minority farmers and ranchers reflective of that population.
Ensure equitable opportunities for individuals interested in serving on County Committees are available by reducing the complexities of the nomination and election process and increasing awareness about opportunities to serve on County Committees through multiple mechanisms, including but not limited to online outlets. Use the NASS Census outreach process as a way to notify all farmers of County Committee election and voting process and eligibility.
Establish a USDA County Committee Liaison responsible for identifying and instituting diverse representation on County Committees.
Immediately implement a process to ensure that County Committee minority advisors have access to the FSA Administrator to bring in real time issues or concerns within the county and an annual report or accounting to the Administrator on how that committee is operating.
The Commission has also identified areas where socially disadvantaged producers and beginning farmers have been handicapped by the current crop base structure and have requested these discrepancies be addressed.
We are pleased that the Equity Commission has recognized the valuable role that County Committees and Minority Advisors play in the administration of federal farm programs. NASCOE supports the recommendations the Commission has presented, and we continue to make ourselves available to members of the Equity Commission and the Administration to assist in the effort of eliminating all forms of discrimination at USDA.