Co-ops represented on US government’s new committee on equity in rural development

Two co-operators sit on the new body – Doug O'Brien from NCBA CLUSA and Curtis Wynn from Florida electric co-op Seco Energy

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an Equity Commission Subcommittee on Rural Community Economic Development (RCED), which includes members from the co-operative sector.

Announced on 23 August, the new subcommittee includes representatives of community-based organisations, lending institutions, small businesses, co-operatives, tribal entities, and two members from the Equity Commission.

There are two co-operators sitting on the subcommittee – Doug O’Brien, president and CEO of national apex body NCBA CLUSA, and Curtis Wynn, CEO of Seco Energy, an electric co-op serving 200,000+ member-owners in central Florida.

“USDA is committed to ensuring that the underserved communities and populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of economic and environmental shocks are prioritised as we address systemic inequities and build back trust,” said agriculture secretary Tom Secretary Vilsack. “The diverse perspectives and expertise of the subcommittee members will be critical to ensuring the commission’s discussions and recommendations are balanced, insightful, and project the desired equity outcomes for everyone.”

“I am very excited to welcome this new RCED subcommittee to join the work of the Equity Commission and Subcommittee on Agriculture,” said deputy secretary Jewel Bronaugh, co-chair of the Equity Commission. “Overcoming the historic and systemic barrier that is the persistent poverty experienced by underserved rural communities is a charge that I feel personally connected to and believe will positively impact two-thirds of the 3,000+ counties in the United States.”

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“It is an honour to be able to serve with such an excellent group of rural leaders. The work of the commission ensuring greater equity in USDA programmes is crucial for all people in rural communities,” said Doug O’Brien.

USDA said the appointments aimed to reflect diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise.

The Equality Commission was set up in response to Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan, which directed USDA to create and fund the commission to drive the systemic, structural and cultural changes needed to advancing equity.

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