Farm Progress

Jewel Bronaugh is the first woman of color appointed to the USDA role.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

January 26, 2023

2 Min Read
Jewel Bronaugh next to her husband being sworn in remotely by Tom Vilsack.
USDA POST: Jewel Bronaugh was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2021. Flickr/Tom Witham

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh announced she will be leaving USDA in the coming weeks to spend more time with her family. She has held the role since May 2021.

"Serving in the Biden-Harris Administration and having the opportunity to make history alongside Secretary Vilsack has truly been the greatest honor of my professional career,” Bronaugh said. “I continue to be in awe of all we have accomplished during these first two years.”

Bronaugh is the first woman of color to be appointed Undersecretary of Agriculture. She co-chairs USDA’s recently created Equity Commission, which advises the agency and Congress on ways to remove systemic inequities and improve access to programs and resources. She also helped established a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Office within the Office of the Secretary.

In a statement announcing her decision, Bronaugh said it is important for people to know USDA is committed to becoming an agency that ensures equitable access. While she concedes building and maintaining trust is not easy, she says that she has seen first-hand how the department is working each day to build a more inclusive path forward.

"To the young people and next generation of agriculture leaders that I have had the pleasure of meeting at minority-serving land grant institutions across the country, keep working hard and dreaming big,” she said. “I know the future of food and agriculture is in good hands.”

Prior to becoming Undersecretary, Bronaugh was the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Customer Service. During her time in that role, she established Virginia’s first statewide program to address food access within historically marginalized communities.

She also previously worked with the Farm Service Agency and served as Dean of Agriculture at Virginia State University.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says Bronaugh set a powerful example for the next generation of agriculture leaders. He called her a “champion and partner in many ways” and praised her for working tirelessly to strengthen USDA operations and support its employees.

“Deputy Secretary Bronaugh has accomplished a lot during her tenure at USDA and much of her work will be felt well into the future,” he said. “She has been instrumental in advancing equity and opportunity, strengthening the international trade relationships that benefit our domestic producers, enhancing food assistance programs to help those in need and increasing engagement in innovation and research key to expanding sustainable agriculture practices.”

Got a policy question, or hot topic idea? Sent it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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