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Environmental Justice

"Environmental Justice” is the just treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, or ability, with respect to the development, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation of laws, regulations, programs, policies, practices, and activities, that affect human health and the environment.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to working in collaboration with Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments, along with non-governmental organizations and private individuals, to address conditions that place communities at risk and assist communities to achieve environmentally suitable living conditions and, ideally, healthier lives. 

History & Federal Response


The environmental justice movement began through the activism of people of color addressing environmental and economic burdens such as poor air and water quality, lack of access to land and nutritious, culturally relevant foods. The movement gained national attention through the 1960s and 80s during the Memphis Sanitation Strike, the class action lawsuit against Southwestern Waste Management in Houston, TX, brought by the Northeast Community Action Group, and peaceful protests against toxic waste dumping in Warren County, North Carolinaone of the few majority black population counties in the state. 

Issues of environmental deprivation go back much further, though. Since first contact, the removal of indigenous peoples from their lands and the institution of slavery, people of color on the land that would become known at the United States have faced dispossession. Their fight continues through protests, federal and state lobbying, and grassroots action and activism.

Federal Response

​​​​​​The Federal Government is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities, particularly in ways that promote and protect national public health and the environment, while conserving our national treasures and monuments. It is committed to guidance from scientific research to improve health, protect the environment, ensure access to clean air and water, and healthy, culturally relevant food. 

Executive Orders

The three executive orders that established and affect Environmental Justice at USDA are:

USDA partners with the EPA as part of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council []. Outside of the Advisory Council, EPA has multiple programs, tools, and funding available [] for communities who face issues related to EJ.

Current Topics

Selected external links organized by subject
Climate & Environment
Community & Development
Farmland & Food
  • Farmland Access Legal Toolkit [] 
    A resource for farmers who need land to farm and for farmers who want to transition their land to another farmer as part of their estate planning or for other reasons. Spanish resources: Recursos en Español [].
  • Healthy Food Policy Project [] 
    Identifies and evaluates local laws that seek to promote access to healthy food while also contributing to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
  • Justice40 [] 
    A whole-of-government initiative with the goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to historically-excluded communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution. 

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