By Dan Gephart, January 23, 2024
It’s been said many times — and then many more times: For DEIA efforts to be successful, organizations need support from top leadership. For how that looks in the Federal sector, one needs only to see what’s happening with the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) and its Board Chairman/Chief Executive Officer Vincent Logan.
Logan, a member of the Osage (Tribal) Nation and the agency’s first openly LGBTQ+ Board Chairman and CEO, has made DEIA a priority.
As an independent agency, FCA is not required to follow President Biden’s Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. But Logan sees DEIA as an importance piece of FCA’s mission.
“FCA has a mission from Congress to ensure that our lenders, the Farm Credit System institutions, are safe, sound, and dependable sources of credit for all creditworthy and eligible persons in agriculture and rural America. So that means serving ALL populations in this country,” Logan said. “I share the president’s goals to increase opportunities for underserved populations, so opening up employment and lending opportunities is a top priority for me. I believe advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility is a responsibility of all Federal agencies, including FCA and the (Federal Credit System) institutions that FCA regulates.”
Logan took some time to answer FELTG’s questions:
DG: Have you received any pushback on your DEIA efforts?
VL: The Farm Credit Administration is governed by a three-member board. No more than any two members can be from one party. We work in a bi-partisan fashion to meet the mission provided by Congress of serving ALL creditworthy, eligible potential borrowers. To fully meet that mission, we must get DEIA right both within FCA and at the institutions we regulate.
DG: What are some of the things you’ve done at FCA to advance DEIA?
VL: I’m very pleased and proud to say that since I started here over a year ago, I have worked with the two other members of the FCA board to take important steps to further enhance DEIA at an agency that was already ahead of many others in the DEIA space.
One of the first actions I took was working with the other Board members in a unanimous decision to elevate and reorganize the Equal Employment Opportunity and Inclusion Office (EEOI) on the same level as other offices at FCA. The elevation and reorganization of the EEOI Office means that we’ve been able to bring in an additional full-time staff member whose key area of focus is on outreach to, and the recruitment and employment of underrepresented groups. This new employee also serves as a senior advisor and assistant to the director of the office. We have also added full-time program support specialist to help carry out EEOI’s enhanced mission.
Also, the EEOI team will continue to benefit from the work, expertise, and experience of our chief diversity officer, who also serves as coordinator for FCA’s Special Emphasis Programs (SEP). These are employee-led programs and activities created to recognize, honor, and respect our differences and diversity and help make the workplace more welcoming. They include the following groups: Arab American; Asian American Pacific Islander; Blacks in Government; Federal Women’s Program Committee; HOLA-FCA (Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement); Native American; Persons with Disabilities; PRIDE at FCA; and Veterans at FCA.
DG: What are you doing to encourage DEIA in the Farm Credit System institutions?
VL: FCA has been encouraging the system to explore mission opportunities to expand their workforce and customer base by reaching out to underserved communities in their lending territories to increase both workforce and borrower diversity.
Earlier this year, FCA issued a memorandum inviting institutions to reflect on their diversity and inclusion activities since the passage 10 years ago of the business planning rule. This important rule requires system institutions to incorporate diversity and inclusion into their employment and lending strategies and actions.
FCA has also taken more recent action. On Nov. 1, in alignment with Native American Heritage Month, I sent a memorandum to all system institutions encouraging each to reach out to tribal citizens, tribal governments, and Indian Country communities in their lending territory to find ways to serve their credit and related service needs and increase the diversity of the institutions’ workforce.
On that front, I was pleased to see that CoBank, one of the largest institutions in the Farm Credit System, this week announced a partnership with the American Indian College Fund, which provides American Indian and Alaska Native students with scholarships. Over the next three years, CoBank’s investment of $300,000 will provide scholarships to 20 students in the amount of $4,500 each. Students pursing degrees in banking, finance, and agriculture will receive preference; however, the scholarships are open to all Native students.
As the first Native American board member and chairman at FCA, I want to ensure that Indian Country knows about, and has equitable access to, the agricultural and rural development resources afforded by the system to all creditworthy borrowers.
On a more personal level, I was honored to also be the first agency leader to post the Rainbow Pride Flag at FCA headquarters during Pride Month in June of this year. A symbolic but very important exercise and statement that DEIA matters. It matters in the agency’s workforce. And it matters in our institutions.
Supporting relationship building with these oft-overlooked communities is another example of how FCA is moving forward on the DEIA front.
DG: What are the milestones or markers you are using to measure the success of your DEIA efforts?
VL: As an agency, we don’t want to lose any ground on the DEIA achievements we have made to date. Our goal must be to improve and build upon those. I know that FCA is having success in its DEIA efforts when I see our Special Emphasis Programming expanding to include new cultural and diversity groups. I measure success by the multiplicity of FCA employees, from all walks of life, who join in the cultural celebrations of their coworkers. I know that we are experiencing success when the self-identified diversity of our workforce continues to increase year over year. We’ve long been considered a Federal employer of choice for DEIA, and we strive to maintain and improve that recognition every year.
DG: How important is training when it comes to advancing DEIA? And what other tools should agencies be considering?
VL: Training and continuous learning is very necessary and encouraged for both personal and professional development, and that includes work in the DEIA space. At FCA, we strongly encourage — and in some cases, in accordance with Federal policy requirements — require mandatory training. An educated employee is a valued employee who brings credit upon his/her role and the agency’s efforts to continue to build a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Those same principles and outcomes must also be reflected in the lending institutions that the Farm Credit System regulates, and we are moving deliberately in that direction.
DG: Thank you, Chair Logan.
VL: Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.