Filed Under:  National, News

Sec’ty of Agriculture makes fairness pledge to Black newspapers

25th June 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Joey Matthews
Contributing Writer

(Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Richmond Free Press) -
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the promise two years ago during a Black Press Week meeting of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

It’s still unfulfilled, but Vilsack promised that he would look into the advertising situation related to the department’s commitment to fairness in procurement and the long-neglected Black community.

The promise: Vilsack pledged at the 2010 Washington gathering of Black-owned newspapers that he would advertise USDA events with their publications to reach out to the Black community and inform people of color of USDA programs.

The USDA has historically discriminated against Black farmers and other people of color. That has led to the government settlement of lawsuits brought by the Black Farmers Association, led by John Boyd Jr., a South Hill farmer. The settlements will provide more than $2 billion in redress to tens of thousands of Black farmers.

Raymond H. Boone, Free Press editor/publisher, called Vilsack’s attention to his broken pledge at a recent press conference at the Virginia Farm Bureau headquarters in the West Creek Business Park in Goochland County. He did so during a question-and-answer period following the secretary’s announ­cement of a new nationwide small loan program for beginning farmers and ranchers.

Boone said he represented NNPA, a federation of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers nationwide. Boyd supports the NNPA’s advertising proposal.

Boone told Vilsack, “We got no direct responses” following the secretary’s promise, but instead “got press releases.”

Vilsack said he remembered the conversation at the NNPA event. He added he would have to “go back and ask our marketing folks about the ad situation.”

He also defended the USDA’s performance in improving upon its past discrimination practices against Black farmers. “There has been significant change at the USDA. Of that, I am certain.”

This article was originally published in the June 25, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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