White House Rural Council Blog
- Posted byon February 25, 2011 at 4:08 PM EDT
Today is an historic day for USDA. Working with colleagues at the Department of Justice, we launched a program that provides a path to justice for Hispanic and women farmers who believe they were discriminated against by USDA between 1981 and 2000. Many of these farmers and ranchers have waited and fought to get relief, but until now their only means of getting their complaints heard was to file an individual case in federal court. Today we are providing folks with a simpler path that enables them to file a claim for compensation that will be resolved by a neutral party without the involvement of the courts.
When I was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture two years ago, President Obama and I made a commitment to mend USDA’s troubled civil rights record. Since then, we have taken comprehensive action to turn the page on past discrimination. Last year we entered into a settlement with black farmers in Pigford II to address pending claims, and finalized a historic settlement agreement with Native American farmers under Keepseagle that faced discrimination by USDA.
With today’s announcement, we are continuing work to build a new era for civil rights at USDA: correcting our past errors, learning from our mistakes, and outlining definitive action to ensure there will be no missteps in the future. The process has been long and often difficult, but my staff and I have been working hard every day to make USDA a model employer and premier service provider that treats every customer and employee fairly, with dignity and respect.
If you are a woman or Hispanic farmer or rancher and feel you were discriminated against by USDA between 1981 and 2000, you must request a claims package to participate in the claims process. To begin this process, you can either call 1-888-508-4429 or visit www.farmerclaims.gov to submit your information online.
Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of Agriculture.
- Posted byon February 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights African Americans from across the Administration whose work contributes to the President's goals for winning the future.
From North Carolina to Washington, D. C., my career spans over thirty years with the Department of Agriculture. I grew up in Farmville, a small southern town in North Carolina, and attended a segregated elementary and high school. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and commitment to service. The foundation laid by my parents empowered me to succeed in earning three degrees. I earned a Doctorate and Masters of Science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Bachelor’s of Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. I have worked at the local, state and national levels. For me, it has been a long journey from the segregated south to the nation’s capital, but I am proud to serve in this historic Administration.
My personal and professional goals have always been to positively impact the lives of people through education to ensure they are empowered to reach their full potential. Over my career, I often served as the first African-American or female in the positions I held. After the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act, I worked to integrate USDA county offices and took the first group of black 4-H youth to compete in a state completion. This was an exciting opportunity. Previously, 4-H competitions were segregated and did not recognize black 4-H groups. I later became the first African American to hold a senior executive position in USDA’s Extension Service. Agriculture is typically a male-dominated career, so it was significant when I was selected as the first woman to serve as an Extension Administrator at Tennessee State University. In that position, I provided support for research, education, and extension programs to increase the prosperity, security, and sustainability of America’s families, farms and ranches, business firms, and communities. The experience allowed me to become the first female Dean in Agriculture at Virginia State University. There, I was responsible for providing leadership for agriculture, human ecology, research, and cooperative extension.
In my current position as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, I am leading efforts to transform the culture of USDA and carry out Secretary Vilsack’s vision to transform USDA into a model organization, positioned to meet the present and future needs of its employees and customers. During the State of the Union Address, the President laid out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world. Through education and outreach programs, we are reforming and transforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century. It is an honor to be a key player as we improve management and transparency and ensure equal access to departmental programs at USDA.
Dr. Alma Hobbs is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Posted byon February 11, 2011 at 8:09 PM EDT
A quick look at the week of February 7, 2011:
Quote: "America has always used the building of our infrastructure networks to take our economy forward and to build out American industry. The Wireless Initiative is going to bring that to the 21st Century. It's going to take it to the next level, because that's the American way."--Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explaining the National Wireless Initiative on the White Board.
Advise the Advisor: Your direct line to senior staff at the White House kicks off with a new video with Senior Advisor David Plouffe.
Out-Building: This week, the President puts forward plans to build up the nation's infrastructure, investing in things like high speed rail, and expanding broadband access so all of America's families will be equipped to win the future:
- Posted byon November 30, 2010 at 5:41 PM EDT
Two years ago, President Barack Obama vowed that this administration would work with Native Americans to empower tribal governments, fulfill our trust responsibilities to tribal members and help tribal leaders build safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities.
Today we took a giant step toward fulfilling that promise with Congressional approval of five major settlements for Indian country that are nothing short of historic.
- Posted byon November 1, 2010 at 11:41 AM EDT
Over the past three months, senior leaders from the Administration have been visiting state fairs across the country to meet fair visitors and rural leaders and discuss some of the ways that the Obama Administration is working to support rural communities. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and CPSC Chair Inez Tenenbaum are only a handful of the leaders who traveled around the country to enjoy the sites of the state fairs, meet 4-H and FFA young leaders, and discuss the ways that their agencies are working to support the Administration’s vision for keeping rural America strong.
During these visits, we heard firsthand how the economic downturn has created challenges in rural America as well as how rural communities are responding to the downturn by leading the charge on a number of important national priorities, such as increasing the production of renewable energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating and expanding small businesses, and contributing talent and energy to national service. Members of the Cabinet and other senior officials learned about the importance of agriculture education and supporting the development of the next generation of farmers and ranchers, talked about the Obama Administration’s commitment to making college more affordable and accessible for all students, and discussed the significant investments that are being made in rural communities thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- Posted byon October 26, 2010 at 5:06 PM EDT
The estimated number of jobs created or saved through USDA Recovery Act investments in rural America continues to grow. Today, I am in Ohio, where USDA has provided over $59.5 million in loan guarantees to help rural businesses grow, innovate and create jobs. You can see economic activity everywhere.
For example, consider Pride of the Hills Manufacturing, Inc., a company that supports the natural gas industry. Pride of the Hills was awarded $1,940,000 in financing through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), directed through USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. The company will use the money to modernize equipment, improve operational efficiency and add 49 new jobs.
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