Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumna Monica Armster Rainge was appointed deputy assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Feb. 16.
The Thomasville, Georgia native is an agricultural lawyer and mediator who 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. In that role, 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.
“We are so proud of Monica Armster Rainge, who was an outstanding agribusiness scholar,” said Varian D. Thomas, Ph.D., associate dean of the FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS), which was the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture when Rainge was a student.
Rainge graduated from FAMU summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in agribusiness, before pursuing a juris doctor from the University of Florida. She later earned a master’s degree in agricultural law from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Over the years, Rainge has remained connected to her alma mater, Thomas said.
“When asked, Monica willingly returned to the College to share her experiences with the students. In fact, a couple of weeks before the announcement, I had told two of our current agribusiness scholars that I would put them in touch with her. So, you could imagine how thrilled I was when I heard the announcement,” Thomas said. “I know she will excel in her new position.”
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. She also chaired the FAMU Brooksville Agricultural and Environment Research Station Advisory Planning Committee.
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.”