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Should USDA Head Vilsak Resign Over Sherrod?

 ATLANTA - Ralph Paige, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, has sent a letter to Tom Burrell of the Black Farmers And Agriculturalsts Association (BFFA). The letter expresses Paige’s lack of support for BFFA’s call for the resignation of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Rather, Ralph Paige calls for increased efforts to address the discrimination problems at USDA and assistance to Black farmers such as the funding of Pigford II.  Please see the letter below:


 
Mr. Tom Burrell, President
Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association
P. O. Box 70
Covington, TN 38014
 
Dear Tom:
 
In response to your press release calling for the resignation of USDA Secretary Vilsack, I do not believe this to be a good idea or strategic move. However, the current atmosphere could provide a unique opportunity to successfully address other more important issues, such as Pigford II.  I also strongly feel that as a courtesy and sign of respect Shirley Sherrod should have at least been consulted on the use of her name and situation as the impetus for the rally at USDA.   
 
Tom we have bigger and more pressing concerns than Secretary Vilsack’s resignation. If he does resign, it will likely take at least a year to replace him and begin developing an agenda that would include issues of concern to farmers of color. This would mean valuable time wasted and would take us to the end of President Obama’s first term without any meaningful change in the much talked about culture of discrimination at the USDA. 
 
I feel that the best use of our time would be to focus on making sure that Congress appropriates the funds necessary to settle Pigford once and for all and that Secretary Vilsack successfully implements his fourteen point plan to ensure equity at USDA.
 
While I do not support the rally outside USDA calling for the resignation of Secretary Vilsack, I do believe that a meeting of all Black farm organizations is called for to discuss these and other issues so that we can better work together to meet the needs of African-American farmers.  Such a meeting should also include Shirley so that we can benefit from her unique perspective. 
 

Cooperatively yours,
 
Ralph Paige
Executive Director
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/
Land Assistance Fund



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