Opinion

Tom Vilsack: Making the Agriculture Department open to all





"Before I was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture, recent folks who had the job—both Republican and Democratic—suggested that it was important that I set a new, proactive course to move past USDA’s checkered and unfortunate history with regards to civil rights.

So I made it a priority for the Department to enter a new era for civil rights—to ensure that all our customers get a fair shake, no matter their race, color, sex, or age—and instituted a comprehensive effort to help get us there:

• We reached historic resolutions to past cases of discrimination brought against USDA by African Americans, Latinos and women farmers and ranchers.

• We announced the settlement of the long-standing Keepseagle v. Vilsack case brought by Native American farmers. In April 2011, the settlement was approved by the court as being fair and just and we are moving forward to resolve those claims and implement the settlement.

• We conducted a review of past complaints against the Department that were largely ignored in the previous decade and we are asking Congress to help work with us to find a route to resolve those with merit.

• We launched a Department-wide ‘cultural transformation’ to create a workforce that represents the diversity of America, and support them in their efforts to serve all of the American people. That has meant improving employee training and outreach efforts, as well as a large-scale plan to recruit, retain and promote employees who will lead the Department as a premier service-provider in the 21st century. "

Get the Story:
Tom Vilsack: A USDA for All Americans (Indian Country Today 5/19)

Relevant Documents:
Plaintiffs Press Release | Settlement | Notice Form A | Notice Form B
Damages Award | Loan Debt Relief
Native American Farmers and Ranchers Council | Named Plaintiffs
President Obama Statement | USDA Press Release

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