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Posts tagged: Shirley Sherrod

Reflecciones Sobre los Derechos Civiles en el USDA

Antes de juramentar como Secretario de Agricultura, tuve la oportunidad de reunirme con algunos individuos que sirvieron en la posición en el pasado.  A estos les pedí consejo y dos de los más recientes Secretarios mencionaron que era importante que me enfocara en los derechos civiles.  Aprendí rapidamente por mi cuenta que el USDA tiene un historial de derechos civiles desafortunado y de altibajos, un historial de discriminación contra clientes y empleados que se extiende por varias decadas. Read more »

Reflections on Civil Rights at USDA

Before I was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture, I took time to meet with a handful individuals who held the job before I did.  I asked them for advice, and two recent Secretaries mentioned that it was important that I focus on civil rights.  As I soon learned for myself, USDA has an unfortunate and checkered history with regards to civil rights, with a multi-decade history of discrimination against our customers and our employees.

So since becoming Secretary in January 2009, I have made civil rights a priority at USDA, working to turn the page on the Department’s tragic civil rights record.  I pledged that we would correct past errors, learn from mistakes, and take definitive action to ensure that there is no disparity in program benefits based on race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability.

Over the past 20 months, I have implemented a comprehensive program to move us into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.  And I made it clear to every employee that USDA will have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, and that each employee and customer must be treated fairly and equitably, with dignity and respect. We have made substantial progress towards these goals, and civil rights will remain a priority at USDA until we have truly moved into the new era I envision.

But for our work on civil rights to be successful and lasting, it must be part of a broader cultural change at USDA.  We began this process last year when I created a task force to build a more open, responsive, collaborative, transparent, and effective USDA.

So there is irony in the fact that my commitment to civil rights was a factor in the run-up and decision to ask for and accept Shirley Sherrod’s resignation as USDA State Director for Rural Development in the State of Georgia.

Following that incident, I directed the USDA Acting General Counsel to conduct a review of what took place.  I wanted to determine what mistakes were made to ensure that the USDA could learn from the incident and avoid similar pitfalls in the future.

Today, I met with Mrs. Sherrod to discuss, among other things, the review we completed of this incident and how USDA will be moving forward to address the recommendations it contains.

This review identified a handful of significant lessons.  Among them is that we need to improve protocols for internal communications at the Department, and create a set of safeguards to avoid the sort of hasty action which led to the mishandling of the matter with Mrs. Sherrod.  I have accepted all of these recommendations and asked that they be implemented immediately.  I know that they will help us build a more inclusive and deliberative decision-making environment and prevent similar mistakes from occurring again at USDA.

This experience provides an opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  But it also provides an opportunity to build a Department that empowers and respects its employees and customers.  And at the end of the day, I know that we will build a stronger Department and better serve the American people.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack meets with Shirley Sherrod in his office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, August 24, 2010. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack meets with Shirley Sherrod in his office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, August 24, 2010. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Recovery Act Funding from USDA Assists in Health Care Training in Georgia

Three patient simulation dummies – an adult, a child, and an infant – are now available for students to practice on at Heart of Georgia Technical College in Dublin, thanks to USDA funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »

Riceboro, Georgia to get Almost $7.5 million In Recovery Act Funds for Sewer Treatment Plant Expansion Project

Written by E.J. Stapler, Rural Development Public Information Coordinator, Georgia

Shirley Sherrod, Georgia state director of USDA Rural Development, Mayor Bill Austin, and other officials celebrated Earth Day in Riceboro, where Phase II of a sewer collection and treatment project will be completed thanks to a USDA Rural Development loan and grant for $7,495,200. The project will eliminate a health and safety hazard, as well as provide service for 225 new users. The funding is provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“This is a wonderful way to observe Earth Day, because this project will help clean up the environment,” Sherrod said. “This project is very close to the ocean, as well.”

The City of Riceboro, located less than 10 miles from the ocean in Liberty County, is spread over about 4,000 acres, but has a population of only 800. Liberty County is ranked by the State of Georgia as being among those with the greatest need and highest poverty levels.

A sewer main will be installed to serve two areas. Those customers currently are experiencing failing septic systems, which creates a health hazard. Service will also be provided to a large, local employer.

Also, part of the Earth Day celebration was a river clean up and a poster contest sponsored by the city.

Over 100 people attended the Earth Day announcement  in Baxley, Georgia and many dined under a permanent pavilion by the river.

Ricky Sweat, Area Director in Baxley Georgia, talks to Georgia State Director Shirley Sherrod at the Georgia Earth Day celebration in Riceboro. The project announced by USDA will remove will remove contaminants from local rivers and streams.

Ricky Sweat, Area Director in Baxley Georgia, talks to Georgia State Director Shirley Sherrod at the Georgia Earth Day celebration in Riceboro. The project announced by USDA will remove will remove contaminants from local rivers and streams.


USDA Administrator Says Millions of Dollars in Federal Loan Guarantee Funds Available for Small Business Development

Judith Canales, Administrator of USDA Rural Development Business Programs, Curt Wiley, Chief of Staff, and Pandor Hadjy, Deputy Administrator, visited Atlanta recently to meet with State Directors, Business Program Directors, and Business loan specialists from 15 states and two territories in an effort to identify ways to streamline business and industry loan processing. This was one of four regional meetings around the nation.

“We know rural businesses need these funds,” said Shirley Sherrod, state director in Georgia. “We are encouraging lenders to bring us good loans and encouraging businesses in need of funds to approach lenders. We absolutely can help with the credit issues out there that many businesses are complaining about. We have capital. We want to put to work in rural Georgia.”

Business and Industry guaranteed loans are available to private businesses to create or expand businesses in qualifying rural areas of the United States. The goal is to create and save jobs in rural areas. Loans are made through local lenders with a guarantee of up to 90 percent of the loan. A substantial amount of business guarantee funding is available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it must be obligated for projects by the end of the current Federal  fiscal year.

“Our goal is to obligate 70 percent of Recovery Act funds by April 16,” Canales said. “Some states have exceeded that but most have not. We need to know where problems are so we can streamline processing. We must get these funds obligated before midnight on September 30, 2010.”

Represented at the Atlanta meeting were the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands and Minnesota.

Curt Wiley, USDA Business Programs Chief of Staff, Georgia Rural Development State Director Shirley Sherrod (center) and Business Programs Administrator Judith Canales address a business program regional meeting in Atlanta
Curt Wiley, USDA Business Programs Chief of Staff, Georgia Rural Development State Director Shirley Sherrod (center) and Business Programs Administrator Judith Canales address a business program regional meeting in Atlanta

Georgia USDA Rural Development State Director Shirley Sherrod welcomes the group to Georgia
Georgia USDA Rural Development State Director Shirley Sherrod welcomes the group to Georgia

For more information on B&I loans, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/busp/b&i_gar.htm.

In Georgia, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ga.

Written by E. J. Stapler,  Public Information Coordinator, Georgia