Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has released an independently produced report that provides a Civil Rights Assessment of USDA's field-based program delivery and makes recommendations intended to ensure that all Americans have fair and equal access to USDA programs. The report makes department-wide recommendations that will help USDA improve service delivery to minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and also suggests agency-specific changes to enhance program delivery and outreach to promote diversity, inclusion and accessibility.
The recommendations include adoption of a new workforce analysis process, customer service analysis, and increased measurement of objectives through managerial employee performance plans. The report also outlines some department successes, including socially disadvantaged group participation in some USDA housing loan programs. At the same time the report provides recommendations designed to improve outreach, documentation of public contact and streamline program application processes.
While many recommendations can be implemented administratively, some of the recommendations will require policy or statutory changes, and others will need to be considered as part of the 2012 Farm Bill deliberations.