Last year, the Biden administration appointed a commission to look at equity in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for federal lending and resource allocation to American farmers, among other duties.
That commission is out with its first interim report, which lays out the ways the USDA says it is advancing equity for a host of groups including farmers, ranchers, and the agency itself.
It’s no secret that the USDA has an equity problem — the agency has owned up to a history of racial discrimination, and settled class action lawsuits with Black and Indigenous farmers.
The equity commission is part of a broader effort under the Biden administration to repair those relationships, and this initial set of 30 recommendations is what the group considers the lowest-hanging fruit, so to speak.
The recommendations include frequent auditing of Farm Service Agency lending programs, increased staff at the USDA’s small Office of Tribal Relations, and better quality services for farm workers, who feel left behind by the agency.
Meanwhile, the USDA is also considering how it will allocate over $2 billion in federal debt relief that was initially promised to farmers of color, but is now available to “disadvantaged” farmers of all races after the program faced lawsuits.
The agency said that debt relief, and the equity commission’s final report, will be out by the end of the year.
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