July 15, 2021
USDA is requesting input from the public on how it can advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities as part of its implementation of Executive Order 13985, “Identifying Barriers in USDA Programs and Services; Advancing Racial Justice and Equity and Support for Underserved Communities at USDA.” USDA is hoping to identify barriers that Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) and underserved communities and individuals may face in accessing, enrolling, and participating in USDA programs and services, and engaging with USDA staff. In the coming months, USDA will establish a Racial Equity Commission that will focus specifically on addressing systemic barriers to equity in USDA programs.
NSAC previously released an announcement on this public comment which can be found here.
The deadline for submitting comments has been extended to: Saturday, August 14, 11:59 pm EST. Submitting a comment is simple, and we encourage farmers that have faced discrimination or barriers to accessing USDA programs to weigh in!
There are multiple suggested prompt questions provided by USDA. Here are some examples below of questions you may want to respond to:
Customer Service Questions
1. Have you applied for or accessed USDA programs and services in the past? If so, please describe your experience.
2. If you have not applied for or accessed USDA programs and services in the past, why not? What would have made it easier for you to apply or access USDA programs and services?
3. Describe your experience(s) interacting with USDA staff when trying to access USDA programs and services. How were they helpful? Are local USDA offices staffed sufficiently and do they provide good customer service? What are areas for improvement?
4. What are the barriers to applying for loan and grant programs? How can USDA make loan and grant processes easier to understand and more accessible to underserved groups?
1. Have you had difficulty accessing one or more USDA programs? If so, which ones? Please explain the difficulty.
2. Did you experience problems with required USDA paperwork, the USDA internet sites, the attitudes of USDA workers, or the locations of USDA offices?
3. Does USDA currently collect information, use forms, or require documentation that impede access to USDA programs or are not effective in achieving program objectives? If so, what are they and how can USDA revise them to reduce confusion or frustration, and increase equity in access to USDA programs?
4. How can USDA remove or reduce barriers that underserved communities and individuals face when they participate or attempt to participate in agency procurement and contracting opportunities?
5. Have you experienced injustice, inequity, or unfairness in one or more USDA programs? If so, which ones? Please explain the situation(s).
6. Are there USDA policies, practices, or programs that perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color or other underserved groups? How can those programs be expanded, or made less complicated or streamlined, to deliver resources and benefits more equitably?
This is an important opportunity to shape the future of USDA programming and how it can benefit underserved communities and farmers. Make sure to submit comments by August 14th, 11:59 EST.