Before I was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture, I took time to meet with a handful individuals who held the job before I did. I asked them for advice, and two recent Secretaries mentioned that it was important that I focus on civil rights. As I soon learned for myself, USDA has an unfortunate and checkered history with regards to civil rights, with a multi-decade history of discrimination against our customers and our employees.
So since becoming Secretary in January 2009, I have made civil rights a priority at USDA, working to turn the page on the Department’s tragic civil rights record. I pledged that we would correct past errors, learn from mistakes, and take definitive action to ensure that there is no disparity in program benefits based on race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability.