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Jewel Bronaugh to become first Black woman and woman of color to serve in No. 2 spot at USDA.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

May 14, 2021

3 Min Read
Pictured in 2019, Jewel Bronaugh visits with TR Jones of Richlands Dairy. Virginia Department of Agriculture

In action Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh by voice vote to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture at USDA. The action is a historic step of confirming the first African-American woman to serve as deputy secretary at USDA.

In congratulating her on the confirmation, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack notes, “Bronaugh has a long, distinguished career as an educator and champion for farmers and rural communities. Most recently as the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services she worked to expand opportunities for small and midsized farmers and ranchers to obtain infrastructure and processing capabilities, and developed strategies to meet environmental and water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay.”

She previously served as the Virginia State executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency, appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Vilsack in July 2015. Prior to her FSA appointment, she served as dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University with oversight of Extension, research and academic programs. Previously she was the associate administrator for Extension programs and a 4-H Extension specialist.

“As dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University, Dr. Bronaugh inspired many first-generation college students from rural communities to become outstanding leaders in their fields. That is understandable considering her positive, uplifting nature,” Vilsack says.

In spring 2019, Bronaugh launched the Virginia Farmer Stress Task Force to raise awareness and coordinate resources to address farmer stress and mental health challenges in Virginia. In the fall of 2020, she helped establish the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund and Program, the first statewide program of its kind to address food access within historically marginalized communities.

Vilsack says Bronaugh speaks respectfully of producers and rural Americans, and believes that as a public servant, her job is to find a way to help those who need it. “I look forward to working with Dr. Bronaugh to ensure USDA lives up to its calling as the ‘People’s Department,’ to be a department that serves all people equally and fairly,” Vilsack adds.

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Bronaugh’s nomination on April 22, 2021 and voted to advance her out of the committee with bipartisan support on May 10.

Related: USDA deputy secretary nomination hearing held

“After a strong bipartisan vote, Deputy Secretary Bronaugh can now get to work at the department,” says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “I look forward to working with her on a number of key priorities. I know she’ll do an excellent job.” 

Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., says he’s pleased the Senate moved quickly to confirm Bronaugh and proud the Senate took the historic step of confirming the first African-American woman to serve as the deputy secretary of agriculture.

“Her extensive experience shows she is more than capable of handling the significant responsibilities that come with the role,” Boozman says. “Deputy Secretary Bronaugh is positioned for success at the department, and I look forward to working with her to help meet the needs of our farmers, ranchers and foresters.”

Bronaugh received her Ph.D. in career and technical education from Virginia Tech. A USDA release adds she is passionate about the advancement of youth leadership in agriculture. Bronaugh is from Petersburg, Va. She is married to Cleavon, a retired United States Army veteran. They have four adult children.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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