In a voice vote, the U.S. Senate Thursday night confirmed Jewel Bronaugh to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture, making her the first Black woman to hold the position. Many agricultural groups offered their praise for the confirmation as she brings a wealth of experience to the position.
Bronaugh brings upwards of two decades worth of experience in food and agriculture, serving most recently as the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 2018. During her career, she has worked on a number of issues, including food access, rural mental health, local and regional food systems and conservation.
Given her extensive familiarity with farm programs, extension, education, and research, National Farmers Union President Rob Larew welcomed her nomination.
“Family farmers, rural communities, and consumers deserve a food system that is fair, sustainable and equitable. Getting there won’t be easy, but we feel confident that Dr. Jewel Bronaugh has what it takes to meet the moment,” Larew says. “With her many years of experience working directly with farmers, her expertise in a variety of relevant areas, and her unique perspective as the first Black woman in this role, Dr. Bronaugh will be able to move the department and the industry in the right direction. As she does so, we look forward to supporting and advising her work.”
“Deputy Secretary Bronaugh brings unique experience to USDA from her time serving as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,” says National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Dr. Barb Glenn. “Deputy Secretary Bronaugh deeply understands how agricultural and food policies work at the farm and community level, and her expertise will benefit American agriculture and all who rely on our food systems.”
NASDA adds it has been a strong supporter of Bronaugh’s nomination since President Biden’s announcement. NASDA spoke out publicly to support her nomination and led the construction of an industry-wide letter to encourage her confirmation.
Ricardo Salvador, a senior scientist and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, brings with her a critical perspective to USDA.
“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,” Salvador says.
He adds, “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.”
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “Her depth of experience with all types of farms, and all types of communities, make her an ideal occupant of this important position, and her deep understanding of food and farm policy will benefit the entire nation.”
Mulhern adds the organization looks forward to joining with her in efforts that will improve and aid agriculture and all who benefit from its products. “We are excited to discuss many of our own industry-leading efforts with her, such as the dairy industry’s Net Zero Initiative and sustainability goals, and work toward solutions that will only enhance dairy and U.S. agriculture’s global leadership in the years to come,” he states.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall adds, “Not only is the confirmation historic, the bipartisan vote is an acknowledgement from both parties that she is focused on the needs of America’s farmers and ranchers.”
National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Chandler Goule says, “We are glad to see the leadership team at USDA taking shape, so we can work collaboratively on farm policy that works for wheat growers and benefits rural America.”
Corn Refiners Association President and CEO John Bode says, “Dr. Bronaugh’s qualifications and career-long commitment to fair and equitable governance, along with her exceptional passion and perspective on agriculture, will provide the United States Department of Agriculture with the strong support our country deserves.”