11.17.21

Ranking Member Boozman’s Opening Statement at Hearing to Consider the Nominations of Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and Margo Schlanger to be Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Civil Rights

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the hearing to consider the nominations of Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be under secretary for research, education, and economics and Margo Schlanger to be assistant secretary of agriculture for civil rights.

Good morning. I am pleased to welcome Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the President’s nominee for under secretary for research, education, and economics, or REE, and Ms. Margo Schlanger, nominated to be the Department of Agriculture’s assistant secretary for civil rights, or OASCR.

Dr. Jacobs-Young has already had a long and storied career at the Department of Agriculture, serving in various leadership roles including administrator of the Agricultural Research Service, acting director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and she has even served in an acting capacity twice for the position in which she is nominated.

She is a proud alum of a distinguished land-grant institution, North Carolina State University, where she earned her baccalaureate, master’s, and Ph.D. She began her career as an assistant professor at the University of Washington before moving to Washington, D.C. to become a national program leader at the Agricultural Research Service. She has served American agriculture very well in her career, and I am pleased she is willing to continue that service in this role.

The REE mission area plays a vital role in spearheading the nation’s agricultural research enterprise. Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, it is the federal leg of the three-legged stool that funds our land-grant universities, which support American farmers, ranchers, and consumers through county-level cooperative extension services, regional and state experiment stations, and first-rate academics. It leads the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific agency, the Agricultural Research Service, and the Economic Research Service. Finally, it houses the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the hard-working and dedicated staff tasked with the challenging job of documenting the successes of American agriculture through various surveys and the Census of Agriculture.

Dr. Jacobs-Young, you have been asked to lead one of the most important and foundational mission areas at the department. I am confident that you have the experience and knowledge to lead it well.

Congratulations on your nomination, and I look forward to your comments today.

Ms. Margo Schlanger has an equally long and distinguished career in public service, specifically in the field of civil rights. She has held positions at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

She’s taught at Harvard Law School, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of California, and in her current post at the University of Michigan School of Law.

And, she served as a law clerk for the late Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The position of assistant secretary for civil rights leads the Department of Agriculture’s civil rights programs, including matters related to program delivery, compliance, and equal employment opportunity. The assistant secretary is responsible for ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of both customers and employees.

Professor, you are taking on a challenging office that handles very sensitive issues. Numerous OIG (Office of the Inspector General) and GAO (Government Accountability Office) reports outline ongoing challenges at the department that need to be addressed. If you are fortunate enough to be confirmed, you will need to focus on how USDA handles civil rights cases or claims efficiently and effectively. In addition, I challenge you to give measured thought about how civil rights are woven into the fabric of all that the department does prospectively, and work to ensure that no USDA program, or employee or contractor acts in a discriminate manner.

Further, what is important is that when USDA develops programs to address civil rights that it does so in a manner that ensures transparency and predictability. This has been a problem as the administration’s attempts in the American Rescue Plan to provide debt relief for certain classes of farmers is now caught up in the courts as a result of numerous lawsuits. Ham-handed efforts such as these help no one. Ms. Schlanger, congratulations on your nomination and thank you for your willingness to serve the country once again. I also look forward to your comments.

Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.