October 26, 2020

Diversity Training at USDA

House Agriculture Committee Request Diversity Training at USDA

The Chairs of all six House Agriculture Subcommittee sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to express their concerns on a recent directive from the White House Office of Management and Budget prohibiting federal funds from being used for diversity training for federal employees. The memorandum in question states that diversity trainings is “propaganda efforts” that teach “the United States is an inherently racist or evil country,” according to the letter.

The letter is co-authored by Nutrition Oversight and Department Operations Chair Marcia L. Fudge; Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chair Jim Costa of California; Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Chair David Scott of Georgia; General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chair Filemon Vela of Texas; Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Chair Stacey E. Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It is no secret the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has had a long, checkered history of discriminatory practices against farmers of color,” wrote the Chairs. “African-American, Hispanic, and Native American farmers have experienced delays or outright rejections in USDA lending, leading to loss of land and a lack of equitable access to farm programs the effects of which can still be felt today.”

The letter mentions court cases such as Pigford, a 1999 class-action lawsuit against the USDA alleging racial discrimination against African American farmers in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1983 and 1997, resulting in $1.06 billion cash relief.

The letter serves as a reminder that diversity training ensures an equitable work environment and is informative. “Diversity trainings are educational opportunities for people who may not understand their own racial bias or cultural insensitivity. It also holds people accountable and ensures fair and equal treatment of minorities both internal and external to the Department. Without these guardrails, we believe you cannot adequately identify and address systemic racism and racial inequities that may adversely impact its program or the broader USDA workforce.”

Read the letter here.