WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2023 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is fulfilling one of its many commitments to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias and better protect the civil rights of all Americans. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, eight agencies—the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Treasury, and Transportation—are for the first time clarifying in writing that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics in federally funded programs and activities. This includes certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related discrimination and bias.
“This is another important step in USDA’s effort to make our programs accessible and inclusive for everyone who wants to participate in agriculture or who stands to benefit from our vast portfolio of programs, which range from farm lending to rural housing support to nutrition security initiatives and more,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Biden has been clear: there is no room in our democracy for discrimination or bias, and as the People’s Department we will continue to do our part to root out hate.”
The USDA fact sheet (PDF, 165 KB) released today is a key deliverable of the Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released in May 2023. This strategy includes additional commitments from USDA to develop educational materials for our law enforcement officers, rural college administrators and students, and members of rural youth organizations; to convene rural interfaith leaders; and to ensure equal access to all USDA feeding programs for USDA customers with religious dietary needs, such as for kosher and halal foods.
In September and October, USDA will hold trainings for U.S. Forest Service law enforcement agents and leadership about how to identify and counter antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination. In November, USDA will co-host a summit in Omaha, Nebraska, convening a diverse group of over 100 religious leaders from across the country to assess the state of antisemitism and highlight effective strategies to counter antisemitism centered on building solidarity across faiths. And on Friday, Sept. 29, USDA will host a Sukkot celebration at the USDA People’s Garden. USDA will fulfill these commitments in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Met Council, Islamic Circle of North America and other faith-based organizations that are leaders in this important work.
“USDA is taking bold, historic action to build equitable systems and provide programming that is inclusive of all employees and customers,” said Dr. Penny Brown Reynolds, USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “The enforcement of Title VI is an important step in helping to protect USDA customers from discrimination in USDA-funded programs or activities, and today’s announcement will help USDA better protect the civil rights of all Americans.”
“Faith-based communities have always played an important role in helping USDA nourish families and kids, conserve natural resources and create rural prosperity,” said Samantha Joseph, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at USDA. “As the daughter of a rabbi and the first Jewish woman to serve as director of a federal center for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, it is an honor to lead USDA’s efforts to build cross-community solidarity and counter antisemitism, Islamophobia and related forms of discrimination and bias.”
The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism represents the most comprehensive and ambitious U.S. government effort to counter antisemitism in American history. View the complete strategy and commitments.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.