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FYI: Agriculture secretary brings a message of hope for farmers

Good afternoon,


I thought you may be interested in this opinion piece in The Tuskegee News regarding Secretary Vilsackâs visit to Tuskegee University this week and the work of USDA and the Obama administration to turn the page on civil rights issues.


Please let me know if you have any questions.Â



Opinion: Agriculture secretary brings a message of hope for farmers

The Tuskegee News
Dec 09, 2010 - 06:12:02 EST


A message of fairness and moving forward came from Jim Vilsack, secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture, when the former governor of Iowa was speaking Tuesday to the 68th Annual Professional Agricultural Workers Conference at Tuskegee University.


His audience was a majority black one and it wouldnât be surprising if his remarks may have been viewed with scepticism. Vilsack admitted up front the USDAâs history in the area of civil rights was one that has to be improved upon.


Many are waiting for payments from the Pigford IIâlawsuit brought against the USDA by black farmers. Some have been waiting years for their payments. In his remarks Tuesday, December 7 to an audience at the Tuskegee University Chapel, Vilsack mentioned the Claims Settlement Act agreement by Congress last week that should speed up the lagging payment process.


One has to remember that Vilsackâs comments and promise came in the same county where the United States Department of Public Health conducted the infamous Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male â the Tuskegee Syphilis Study â where from 1932-72 many men in Macon County were misled to believe they were receiving treatment for syphilis as the government studied the diseaseâs effects.


The Study is one of the blackest eyes in U.S. history.âIt is also a major reason many blacks donât trust the federal government when it comes to medical care. The same holds true for treatment from the USDA.


But Vilsack seemed to offer hope that what he says can be taken to the bank as the truth.


In the two years Vilsack has served in his capacity on President Barack Obamaâs cabinet, many initiatives have been taken to address the needs of the nationâs farmers. Those initiatives have targeted to improve the plight of minorities and those considered disadvantaged.


Itâs not all about settlements. Vilsack talked of programs to make farming more viable. He spoke of improving schools, hospitals, infrastructure and communication in rural communities so opportunities for the disadvantaged would be improved.


It wasnât so much what Vilsack said â which was impressive enough. It was the passion with which he made his points. That has to give people who will be most impacted a sense of hope.


There hasnât always been that hope for the audience Vilsack addressed. Hope exhibited through programs and initiatives is where the rubber meets the road.


It appears Obamaâs Secretary of Agriculture understands the importance of making his word his bond on behalf of the USDA, where more times than not that hasnât been the case.




Sarah Misailidis
Press Assistant
Office of Communications
United States Department of Agriculture
(202) 720-4623


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