order non hybrid seeds LandRightsNFarming: 2008 GAO Civil Rights DLAWRLeficiencies at USDA

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2008 GAO Civil Rights DLAWRLeficiencies at USDA

From: LawrLCL@aol.com
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:50:45 -0400
Subject: 2008 GAO Civil Rights DLAWRLeficiencies at USDA
To: redacted

the question is ....what has changed for the better at usda since the gao and other reports....such as the 8 million dollar report, by jackson lewis, crit & crat reports , as well. the answer is....nothing. in fact, things have gotten worst under the tom vilsack & dr. joe leonard's leadership.

lawrence lucas

United States Department of Agriculture
Independent Assessment of the Delivery of Technical and Financial Assistance
Contract AG-3142-C-09-0049
―Civil Rights Assessment‖
March 31, 2011
Prepared By:
Jackson Lewis LLP
Corporate Diversity Counseling Group
―Assessment Team‖

GAO: Civil Rights Deficiencies at USDA


Pro Farmer Editors
A report released today by the independent investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), says the civil rights efforts overseen by Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are marked by "significant deficiencies" and recommends new accountability structures to correct ongoing failures.

Specifically, GAO found that USDA fails to track and adjudicate civil rights complaints, fails to provide accurate data regarding minority participation in USDA programs, and fails to adequately undertake strategic planning with respect to civil rights. The report was conducted at the request of U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and U.S. Representatives Joe Baca (D-CA) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY). The lawmakers asked the GAO to focus especially on the performance of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, a position created in the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act and tasked with directing civil rights efforts across USDA.

Earlier this year, the lawmakers protested directly to USDA when reports surfaced that the Department obstructed and temporarily shut down the GAO investigation. According to GAO, USDA officials delayed providing information and, in some cases, instructed USDA employees not to comply with GAO.

To determine whether, as a result of this legislation, the Department of Agriculture has improved its civil rights performance, Senators Harkin, Lugar, and Grassley, as well as Representatives Baca and Towns, asked GAO to investigate USDA civil rights actions since the 2002 farm bill, including the actions of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in 1) resolving discrimination complaints, 2) reporting on minority participation in USDA programs and, 3) strategic planning for ensuring USDA's services and benefits are provided fairly and equitably.

Key GAO Findings:
  • The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights has not achieved its goal of preventing backlogs of pending civil rights complaints, with some complaints still pending from the early 2000s. In addition, GAO found that progress report from the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights regarding the extent of and resolution of complaints have been inconsistent.
  • The reports published by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, required by law, regarding minority participation in USDA programs are unreliable and of limited usefulness. Furthermore, USDA has not taken the steps necessary to improve the reliability of the data.
  • The strategic planning of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights has not included the necessary steps to "provide fair and equitable services to all customers and uphold the civil rights of its employees."
To remedy the lack of civil rights compliance at USDA, GAO recommended three possible actions.

  • A statutory performance agreement containing measurable goals and expectations in key performance areas.
  • An independent and empowered civil rights oversight board tasked with approving, monitoring, and evaluating USDA civil rights activities.
  • An effective ombudsperson, "independent, impartial, and fully capable of conducting meaningful investigations of USDA actions."

USDA Still Plagued By Civil Rights Problems After Shirley Sherrod

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WASHINGTON — Despite acknowledging a legacy of discrimination, the Department of Agriculture is still plagued by civil rights problems that have in the past led to unequal treatment of minorities seeking loans and other help, according to a government-commissioned report Wednesday.

Most of the employees interviewed by a private consulting firm did not believe the department, sued over the years by blacks, Hispanic, American Indians and women, had a civil rights problem. Research by the Jackson Lewis LLP Corporate Diversity Counseling Group "substantiated in part the anecdotal claims of neglect, at best, and wide-spread discrimination, at worst" at the department.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack arranged for the $8 million review as part of an effort to address long-running problems, many involving minorities denied loans by department field offices staffed mostly by white men.

Discrimination was most acute at the agency responsible for delivering farm loans and other programs to rural residents. The study noted that far fewer minorities participated in many programs than did whites, and found not enough effort to go into minority communities to market loans and services.

"Customers and potential customers stated that USDA policies and practices, often unintentionally, and sometimes purposely by 'bad actors,' result in the unfair treatment and denial of program access which have had a broad and longstanding negative impact," the report said.

Vilsack said the department has put in place some of the more than 200 recommendations from the report. Since he took over in 2009, he has focused on correcting civil rights problems, reviewing long-neglected complaints and settling lawsuits brought by the minority farmers. He calls it a "cultural transformation."

He ordered the report before the brouhaha involving a rural development administrator who was shown in an edited online video making what appeared to be racist remarks. Shirley Sherrod, who is black, was forced to resign, then quickly offered a new job in the civil rights department when it became clear that her comments were misunderstood. She has sued the conservative blogger who posted the video that led to her dismissal.

Vilsack said he learned from the study that the rural field offices must do more to connect with minorities who may be reluctant to ask for loans because of the department's history of discrimination. While those people who apply for loans in the offices may be treated fairly, he said, many don't apply.

"Because of the past, folks aren't anxious to go into the office," he said. "They think they are going to be turned away … We have to break that barrier, make people feel more comfortable."

Vilsack said he has stayed in touch with Sherrod and their discussions have given him new ideas on how to ease the civil rights strains.

"We're seeing progress because of that incident," he said.

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