U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Monica Rainge as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

Release No. 0025.21
Contact: USDA Press

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2021 — Monica Armster Rainge was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture today. Rainge is an agricultural lawyer and mediator. She has worked in the public and private agricultural sectors for more than 25 years. Most recently, she served as the Director of Land Retention and Advocacy for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund where she led the development and management of outreach and technical assistance programs that support regional land retention and advocacy initiatives for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Rainge also directed the Federation’s Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center which provides USDA-certified mediation services in Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. Her professional experience with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund dates back to 1996 when she served as a college intern under the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Internship Program.
Experienced in agricultural policy development and program management, she previously served as the Florida State Coordinator for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. She has managed regional USDA projects focusing on outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Rainge has a long track record of working at the federal and state level to advocate for underserved and marginalized communities. Before her appointment, Rainge served as an executive board member and treasurer of the National Family Farm Coalition and served on the boards of the Southern Rural Development Center and Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG).

“A proud alumna of an 1890 HBCU, a former USDA intern, and a Master 4-H'er of Georgia, Monica is one of the most influential female leaders in agriculture today and we’re grateful to have her on the team,” said Katharine Ferguson, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Secretary. “She has dedicated her career in law and advocacy to fighting for underserved and marginalized communities in food, agriculture and natural resources management. She will help to lead our efforts to ensure equity across the Department, remove barriers to access and root out systemic racism, and build a workforce more representative of America.”
Rainge holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, an 1890 public historically black land-grant university, and a juris doctor from the University of Florida. She earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Graduate Program in Agricultural Law.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
“We are proud and extremely happy for the opportunity that Monica has to continue to serve our membership, community and this nation in her new role. This call to service is a testament to Monica’s knowledge of the issues, commitment to equality, and passion for the community. It is also a testament to the value and work of the Federation as an organization and community-owned institution in this country. This is also a testament to the value of networks and partners. Many within our network have provided key support over the years, placing both Monica and the Federation in this position as a leading voice on equity and justice in our rural communities. Furthermore, we have key partners like John Deere that have stepped up to make sure issues like heirs property continue to be at the forefront while providing the necessary support and resources to ensure the work continues and we can identify the next Monica as we continue to build our legal internship program as part of expanding our partnerships and efforts around equity, justice and black land ownership.”- ED Cornelius Blanding, FSC/LAF
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, entering its 54th year, assists limited-resource farmers, landowners, and cooperatives across the South with business planning, debt restructuring, marketing expertise, and a whole range of other services to ensure the retention of land ownership and cooperatives as a tool for social and economic justice. The overall mission is to reverse the trend of black land loss and be a catalyst for the development of self-supporting communities via cooperative economic development, land retention and advocacy.