Subcommittee Investigates Civil Rights at USDA

Vilsack, Obama commended for commitment to issue.

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Wednesday held a hearing to review the USDA's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Chairman Joe Baca, D-Calif., said he is hopeful wounds will begin to heal and equal opportunity of success for all farmers and producers will begin being seen.

"Discrimination of any type is unacceptable," said Baca. "After decades of unsuccessful attempts to establish and enforce equitable civil rights policies within the USDA, I am pleased with the initial commitment of the Obama administration and Secretary Vilsack to right this situation."

The oversight hearing focused on USDA's handling of civil rights violations and the findings of a GAO report released in October 2008 entitled "Recommendations and Options to Address Management Deficiencies in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights." The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and the author of the recent GAO report.

"All farmers deserve equal access to USDA programs regardless of race, ethnicity or gender," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. "This committee feels strongly about ensuring that USDA is administering all of its programs in an equitable and just manner. The outcomes of today's hearing will help us continue proper oversight responsibilities."

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