For decades, there have been allegations of discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and workforce. Reports and congressional testimony by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a former Secretary of Agriculture, USDA's Office of Inspector General, GAO, and others have described weaknesses in USDA's programs--in particular, in resolving complaints of discrimination and in providing minorities access to programs. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 authorized the creation of the position of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR), giving USDA an executive that could provide leadership for resolving these long-standing problems. This testimony focuses on USDA's efforts to (1) resolve discrimination complaints, (2) report on minority participation in USDA programs, and (3) strategically plan its efforts. This testimony is based on new and prior work, including analysis of ASCR's strategic plan; discrimination complaint management; and about 120 interviews with officials of USDA and other federal agencies, as well as 20 USDA stakeholder groups. USDA officials reviewed the facts upon which this statement is based, and we incorporated their additions and clarifications as appropriate. GAO plans a future report with recommendations.
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