Recently, I had a meaningful discussion with Jeremy Wood (he/his/him), who has been with USDA for 23 years. In 2023, Jeremy transitioned into his current role as a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Policy and Strategy Advisor within the newly formed Office of the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (OCDIO) in the Office of the Secretary (OSEC). His mission is to integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into every aspect of USDA, fostering a culture of belonging that empowers a diverse workforce to fulfill our mission.

Additionally, Jeremy serves as the President of the Employee Resource Group (ERG), Equality USDA. This ERG actively promotes a work environment free from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.


Jeremy Wood Jeremy Wood, DEIA Policy and Strategy Advisor with OSEC/OCDIO
and President of Equality USDA

I asked Jeremy about Equality USDA, and what activities employees can look forward to during Pride Month.

Marcia: Jeremy, thank you for taking time to meet and share the Department’s observances and activities for LGBTQI+ Pride Month. First, please tell me more about the Employee Resource Group, Equality USDA.

Jeremy: Thank you, Marcia. Equality USDA has what I think is an interesting origin story. In Fall 2000, a Secretary’s Advisory Council on Sexual Orientation was established, the Gay and Lesbian Employees Advisory Council (GLEAC). The group advised USDA leadership on issues affecting LGBT employees, assisted in the implementation of Departmental polices, and developed/delivered training addressing sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination. GLEAC acted in this capacity for nearly a decade.

A few of the members of that council wanted to find a way to connect with more LGBTQI+ identified employees across the Department and formed our progenitor to add a social and community aspect in addition to GLEAC’s work. This group was known as USDA Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) part of a network of Federal GLOBE groups with the first being at the Smithsonian forming in 1988.

Over the years, and with the advent of the LGBTQI+ Special Emphasis Program by Secretary Vilsack in 2009 GLOBE grew to be more of a social group for LGBTQI+ employees in the DC area and wasn’t really connecting to the community at USDA outside of that area. A group of employees and SEPMs, including myself, all met at the annual Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas, TX, October of 2015, and decided that we needed to do more in this space, to bring us together from across the country.

In 2018, with the elimination of Department level Special Emphasis Programs, we decided revitalizing GLOBE was the best way to keep and continue to grow our community connection, so we got to work. Recognizing that the organization’s name was outdated and no longer fit the breadth of our community, to be more inclusive, in December 2018, we formed new organizational bylaws and rebranded as Equality USDA.

As we turned our focus nationally working with agency SEPMs to present Pride Month activities, and further connect LGBTQI+ employees across the country, membership soared, and we’ve had an active and engaged community ever since. Membership is open to all USDA employees and retirees. We hold member meetings each month via Zoom along with other educational, career development events, social activities, and trainings. We partner with Civil Rights offices all over USDA and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) at the Department to plan and carry out Pride Month observance activities all over the country.

We are engaged with the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) and my own office (OCDIO) to affect policy and cultural change at USDA that moves us toward a vision of a USDA where you can grow your own destiny no matter who you are, or whom you love. Employees can learn more about the organization and submit a membership application on our Equality USDA website and follow our Facebook page and on Instagram.

Marcia: That is an incredible history and development of Equality USDA. Community building is so important and helps to boost the overall morale in our workplaces. What do you enjoy most about your role in USDA’s Diversity and Inclusion?

Jeremy: It is truly a labor of love. Every day I get the opportunity to work for the mission of USDA, make things better for my community, and help establish Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the heat of everything we do, which I hold very personal to me. I always look towards how we can be more equitable and inclusive within our workforce but seek out LGBTQ+ producers and farmers and how we can better address their needs and ensure their access to our programs, because they are out there, and the community is connected and growing.

Marcia: We are already more than halfway through the month of June. What events and activities are coming up that employees still have time to engage in?

Jeremy: Employees can find remaining Pride Month observances on the OASCR’s Observance Calendar. Several agencies have virtual events planned. Here is one I’d like to highlight:

  • FPAC’s “Queer Thriving: A workshop centered on queer farmer priorities and success” being held on June 25 at 1pm EDT.

As part of the Department Pride Month Observance events, on June 6, Equality USDA organized a group of volunteers to work in the USDA People’s Garden. We harvested produce to donate to the DC Central Kitchen and planted a Pride flag themed bed using a rainbow of flowers. Volunteers included members from Equality USDA, USDA employees and interns, and Secretary Vilsack’s wife Mrs. Christie Vilsack.

If you’re ever interested in volunteering for future Equality USDA outreach events, contact Justin Fritscher at


Pride Month Volunteers Volunteers pose with flowers before planting them for the Pride Month celebration on Thursday, June 6, at the People’s Garden at USDA Headquarters. A rainbow of flowers including celosia, calendula, lobelia, salvia, and dahlia were planted. (USDA Photo by Paul Sale)

Marcia: There are many opportunities for employees to engage in this month. Is there anything that you’d like to share on the importance of employee organizations like Equality USDA?

Jeremy: I encourage USDA leaders to think about what kind of resources and support we provide for employees that may need a place for connection. With the increase in remote work and how spread out so much of our workforce is across the country, it’s not always easy to connect with folks like you are in a work setting. Leaders can refer their employees and let them know there are groups out here across USDA, whether at the Department or agency level. Equality USDA is dedicated to working hard for our entire LGBTQI+ community at USDA, and anyone, member or not can reach out to us at any time for support.

Well said, Jeremy! Thank you for your dedication to enriching the work-life of USDA employees, and for building a better USDA that embraces all employees. Your efforts help to shape long standing change across the USDA.

I want to also recognize and thank RMA’s own Haley Kottman (they/theirs/them). Haley is featured in this month’s DiversityComm Magazine (page 24), in an article promoting RMA’s diversity and career opportunities.


Haley Kottman Haley Kottman (they/theirs/them)
Statistician, Actuarial Branch

Haley began their career with RMA in 2021. In their current role, they calculate rates and yields for a variety of commodities as a Statistician in the Actuarial Branch. In this article, Haley shares their background, work life balance, and how fulfilling working at RMA has been.

What I appreciate most about this article is Haley’s openness about being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and about safety concerns that arise with work travel. Haley described precautionary measures they have had to take, and the unwavering support received from leadership to affirm Haley’s decision. It is reassuring to know that our employees continue to thrive in a work environment that is supportive, unbiased, and prioritizes employee well-being.

Haley, thank you for your remarkable story and for taking pride in working for RMA. Please find some time to read Haley’s article in the June edition of DiversityComm Digital Magazine.

Throughout this month, USDA is celebrating various observances that promote inclusion, equality, and diversity. We not only recognize these important events but also actively work to ensure equality through our Civil Rights Office, training, and Special Emphasis initiatives.

– Marcia

Marcia Bunger

Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.