Biden Nominates Native American Advocate as Top Attorney for USDA

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President Joe Biden chose an advocate for Native American farmers to be the top legal officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the administration seeks to redress a history of racial discrimination in farm loans and aid.

Janie Simms Hipp, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and chief executive officer of the Native American Agriculture Fund, is the president’s intended nominee to be USDA general counsel, the White House announced Monday. The position requires Senate confirmation.

Biden has made racial fairness a priority for his administration. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack vowed to redress a record of racial discrimination in distribution of assistance for farmers and established a racial equity commission for USDA.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion covid relief package enacted last week included $5 billion in assistance for Black, Hispanic and Native American farmers. His nominee for USDA’s No. 2 post, Jewel Bronaugh, would be the first Black woman to serve in the role at the department.

Hipp worked with Vilsack during the Obama administration, when he was also Agriculture Secretary, as his senior adviser for tribal affairs and later as director of the department’s office of tribal relations.

Vilsack in a statement praised Hipp’s “decades-long career dedicated to protecting and ensuring the legal rights of underserved and underprivileged communities.”

The Agriculture Department in 2010 settled a class action suit brought by Marilynn Keepseagle and other Native Americans charging a pattern of discrimination in making farm aid and loans.

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