Commander Fred Cheng and Lieutenant Rob Reeves participate in an ensign raising ceremony at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2015.
When USDA recognized the men and women who served our country at the annual USDA Veterans Day Observance, it was a special day for me. That’s because the observance, held Oct. 27, 2016, was my first as a USDA employee since returning from a Navy individual augmentee deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan in December of 2015.
It has been more than a year since I answered the call to mobilize. Saying goodbye to your family and friends is never easy. Leaving my job at USDA was not easy, either. But I have no regrets answering that call to duty because for me– and for my fellow USDA employees who are still serving in the reserve or guard — we have great support from family, friends, and coworkers. Read more »
USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.
Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve. This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound. By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.
As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »
Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival along with representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service on August 13.
I recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in southwestern Oregon. We stood side-by-side with our counterparts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. When this festival began 25 years ago, the idea of a government agency participating was unthinkable. At that time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals had no assurance of equal treatment when requesting government services or financial assistance. In fact, it was not so long ago that federal employees suspected of being gay were fired from their jobs. This sad chapter in our history saw careers destroyed and lives irreparably damaged.
I am deeply proud of the tremendous progress we have made nationally and at home here in Oregon to correct those past mistakes. USDA has been among the first federal departments to participate in Pride festivals across Oregon, and we have been leading the way nationally in the arena of LGBT civil rights. We were one of the first federal departments to enact protections specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. USDA has instituted training for our employees, and we have been making a concerted effort to reach out to our LGBT customers, partners, and potential future employees. As I handed out information on the financial programs in Rural Development and the career opportunities available with USDA in a park festooned with rainbows, I experienced first-hand the incredible strides we have made in recent years toward a new era of civil rights. Read more »
A crew from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians takes care of crops inside a high tunnel constructed with Community Food Projects (CFP) funds. CFP grants help local communities take control over their local food supply. (Photo courtesy of John Hendrix)
Fine words, to be sure, but how do we make it true in a department that employs almost 100,000 directly and countless more indirectly at thousands of locations across the country?
At USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), civil rights are inherent to our mission. By promoting equal opportunity and supporting underserved groups and communities, NIFA’s programs help people improve their lives and communities.
NIFA provides funding and national leadership for research, education, and extension programs that address the nation’s agricultural challenges. NIFA-supported programs turn research into action by bringing groundbreaking discoveries from research laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms. Read more »
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard (right) and an auditorium full of U.S. Department of Agriculture employees laughed, listened and learned of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s insights about the topic of “Civil Rights in the Age of Obama,” on Monday, February 28, 2011 in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
Throughout the month of August, we are reflecting on changes we’ve made over the past eight years to create a culture of inclusivity among USDA employees and the diverse communities we serve. For a broader look at our progress, check out our Results project here:
As a kid during the first years of desegregation in Austin, Texas’ public schools, many of my early experiences were shaped by race, and I quickly became familiar with the life-changing impacts discrimination can have on individuals both young and old. While a lot for any kid to experience, these circumstances taught me the power of inclusion, and from them, I became aware of the ways diversity and fairness can help repair troubled histories and heal the wounds of the past. These lessons have shaped my life’s work.
When Secretary Vilsack and I arrived nearly eight years ago, we were aware of USDA’s imperfect history marked by denial of equal service – too often based on race. It was admittedly a terrible situation by any accord. We had our work cut out for us, and got started quickly by examining our history deeply and thoroughly, bringing to light the most challenging aspects of the Department’s past. Read more »
Over 250 people gathered at the Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, New Hampshire last week to celebrate USDA’s 150th Anniversary on a hot, humid summer day.
on left - Judith Canales, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development in front row with Gregg MacPherson, Area Director and Molly Lambert, State Director – on right – congressional staff Ivey Jones-Congressman Bass, Sean Thomas-Congressman Guinta, Matt Leahy-Senator Shaheen, and Simon Thompson-Senator Ayotte with community attendees at the New Hampshire 150th USDA Anniversary Observance.
The hosts – Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson graciously opened their farm as the perfect location for this event. After driving up a narrow road, we discovered a scurry of activity as guests were welcomed and directed to a field set up with tents, farmer market vendors, informational booths and people. Read more »