This Thursday and Friday, August 11-12, the members of USDA’s Minority Farmer Advisory Committee will meet for the first time to discuss efforts to increase minority participation in Department programs and services. The establishment of this committee builds upon existing cultural transformation initiatives underway and will help ensure fair and equal access to USDA services. Members will advise Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on additional ways the Department can continue building an inclusive future with targeted outreach and assistance to minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
The Minority Farmer Advisory Committee is authorized under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) and will advise the Secretary on “implementation of section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990; methods of maximizing the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs; and civil rights activities within the Department as such activities relate to participants in such programs.”
Members of the committee are appointed for two year terms by the Secretary. The nominees include socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers; representatives of nonprofit organizations that work with minority farmers and ranchers; civil rights professionals; representatives from institutions of higher learning; and other persons the Secretary deems appropriate.
Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association, Mora, N.M, Omar Garza, U.S. Mexico Border Coalition, St. Elena, Texas, Richard Molinar, University of California, Reedley, Calif. and Baldemar Velasquez, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Toledo, Ohio are some of the Hispanic members.
Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is addressing civil rights complaints that go back decades to resolve allegations of past discrimination and usher in “a new era of civil rights” for the Department. In February 2010, the Secretary announced the Pigford II settlement with African American farmers, and in October 2010, he announced the Keepseagle settlement with Native American farmers. In February 2011, Secretary Vilsack announced the establishment of a process to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers.