ATLANTA -- Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will keynote the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2010 Civil Rights, Diversity, and Conflict Resolution Management Conference Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 10 a.m. in Washington, DC. The conference will be held in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
“Commissioner Thurmond was selected as keynote speaker because of his extraordinary personal journey in the state of Georgia,” said Donald L. McLellan, Ph.D., director of the USDA’s Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity. “He personalizes and makes real a major priority of Secretary Vilsack’s administration, which is improving civil rights within the Department of Agriculture by renewing our commitment to justice, fairness and accountability.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that emphasizing civil rights throughout the USDA is a major priority of his administration. His proposals include elevating the assistant secretary position, which currently administers civil rights programs, to that of undersecretary, ensuring that civil rights receives the same emphasis as other programs administered at the undersecretary level.
Two highly publicized events this year have brought the issue of racial discrimination in the nation’s farm programs to the forefront - the firing of Shirley Sherrod, the first African-American to head the USDA’s Rural Development Program, and the Pigford II settlement, which requires the payment of monetary damages to African American farmers who have suffered racial discrimination in the administration of USDA farm loans.