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Posts tagged: Joe Leonard

June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.”  With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future. Read more »

USDA’s Iftar Dinner Reflects a Common Calling – Rebuilding and Strengthening Communities in Need

Pictured (Left to Right) Dr. Mohamed El-Sanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach of the Islamic Society of North America, Dr. Abed Ayoub, President of Islamic Relief USA, Michael Scuse, then-acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area

Pictured (Left to Right) Dr. Mohamed El-Sanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach of the Islamic Society of North America, Dr. Abed Ayoub, President of Islamic Relief USA, Michael Scuse, then-acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area

As Hunger Action Month comes to a close, I am reminded of an employee event we held last month in honor of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. For many followers of the Islamic faith, the month of Ramadan – known as a time of fasting and sacrifice – is also a time of reflection.  As we deal with hunger and thirst from sunrise to sunset, we are reminded of those who deal with hunger – and poverty – every day. As we reflect on our spiritual responsibilities, we must also recall our obligation to help others in times of need.  For Muslim employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this holds especially true.

USDA touches the lives of every American.  Our nutrition and food safety programs ensure that all America’s children have access to safe, nutritious, balanced meals, while our rural development programs promote prosperous, self-sustaining communities.  Our conservation programs protect our national forests and private working lands, while our agricultural support programs promote American agriculture and biotechnology while increasing food security around the world. Read more »

USDA Holds Cross-Departmental Discussion to Encourage Mentoring and STEM Literacy

National CARES Mentoring Movement founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence magazine, Susan Taylor (red coat), met for a cross-departmental discussion with Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy personnel in the Whitten Building, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 28, 2012.  This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to recruiting and connecting mentors with local youth and mentoring organizations to help guide under-resourced children to academic and social success across the country. This discussion provided a continuation of the White House Policy in Action conference that took place in November 2011.  The focus of the discussion was about how existing federal programs and administration priorities can be leveraged with her organization, especially as it relates to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literacy, education and rural youth.  USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

National CARES Mentoring Movement founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence magazine, Susan Taylor (red coat), met for a cross-departmental discussion with Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy personnel in the Whitten Building, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 28, 2012. This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to recruiting and connecting mentors with local youth and mentoring organizations to help guide under-resourced children to academic and social success across the country. This discussion provided a continuation of the White House Policy in Action conference that took place in November 2011. The focus of the discussion was about how existing federal programs and administration priorities can be leveraged with her organization, especially as it relates to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literacy, education and rural youth. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture held a cross-departmental discussion focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literacy with Susan Taylor of the National CARES Mentoring Network. Susan Taylor, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Essence magazine, founded the National CARES Mentoring Network while spending time in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  While in New Orleans, Susan said that she learned that over 50% of African American fourth graders are functionally illiterate. Susan came to USDA to explain the need for literacy training and other academic enrichment support for under-resourced children in low-income families in order to help students develop a broad range of 21st century literacy skills. Read more »

MLK Day – A Day to Serve, Reflect and Chart a New Path For Civil Rights

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and legacy by helping others in need.  USDA employees from across the country will observe this day through service projects in their communities, working to fulfill Dr. King’s belief that “everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

As we take a moment to think about MLK’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his commitment to making this country a better place to live, USDA is reminded of the steps we have taken to correct errors, learn from past mistakes, and to chart a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees. Read more »

Successes of the New Era in Civil Rights at USDA

In April 2009, Secretary Vilsack called for a new era in civil rights and directed the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) to help lead a comprehensive effort to improve USDA’s record.  That meant correcting errors, learning from past mistakes, and charting a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees.  To make these goals a reality, my staff and employees across USDA have been working extremely hard over the past two and a half years and I am very proud to highlight some of the strides we’ve made.

To begin with, we want to make sure that USDA’s policies, regulations and decisions are inclusive and respect the rights of all the American people.  To make sure USDA agencies are in compliance with civil rights regulations and policies, OASCR conducts reviews to determine the civil rights impact of any new policy, action, rule or decision.  Since 2009, we have doubled the number of reviews conducted, improved the quality by providing training to folks who conduct them, and worked with agencies within USDA to improve their decision in nearly a third of the cases we reviewed. Read more »

USDA Farm Service Agency Decreases Civil Rights Complaint Rate to Lowest Level in History

USDA is making an effort to transform the workplace so that all customers are provided the opportunity for success and the numbers show the department is making progress.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that it has significantly reduced the number of civil rights complaints in fiscal year 2010 to the lowest level in the agency’s history, while increasing the number of loans and dollars obligated to programs dedicated to minority and women farmers for fiscal year 2011.

“The loan numbers reflect the significant progress we have made in the effort to equally serve all eligible applicants for FSA program support,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. Read more »