Black, Indigenous and People of Color Nominations at USDA Cause for Optimism, says Science Group

Statement by Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published May 14, 2021

The Senate yesterday confirmed Dr. Jewel Bronaugh as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Bronaugh’s previous experience as state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Virginia and commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with her background in agricultural research, make her a strong choice, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Bronaugh is the first Black person and first woman of color to serve as USDA deputy secretary.

Below is a statement by Ricardo Salvador, a senior scientist and director of the UCS Food & Environment Program.

“Dr. Bronaugh brings with her a critical perspective to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, she has witnessed firsthand the challenges we face across our food system: a pandemic that has threatened the health of farm workers and food security across the country; rising food prices exacerbated by export-oriented business models; and a climate crisis that requires adaptation and increased resilience.

“As a former educator and dean of a historically Black university, she understands the importance of providing support for agricultural research and opportunities for first generation farmers and those who have been shut out—or pushed out—of farming, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers. In her confirmation testimony, Dr. Bronaugh made a commitment to take bold action to address discrimination across the department and we look forward to working with her to ensure that the USDA is truly a 'People's Department that works for all of us.

“We still eagerly await confirmation of Janie Simms Hipp as USDA general counsel, as well as the nomination of an undersecretary for research, education and economics. The undersecretary for research, education and economics serves as USDA’s chief scientist, ensuring that research, policies, programs and advice are informed by rigorous science.

“Confirmation of Dr. Bronaugh and Ms. Simms Hipp, alongside the recent appointment of Dewayne Goldmon as senior advisor for racial equity, are important steps in addressing the department’s history of persistently racist policies and practices harming BIPOC farmers and ensuring that BIPOC voices are represented in USDA policymaking moving forward. As an expert in agricultural law and policy with deep lived and professional experience working in indigenous and tribal communities, Ms. Simms Hipp is a strong choice for general counsel. Under her leadership, the Native American Agriculture Fund distributed more than $28 million in grants to Indigenous farmers and ranchers. We urge the Senate to confirm her as quickly as possible.”