The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on Tuesday on “The State of the Rural Economy.” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified, and fielded questions from congressmen and women who asked how the fiscal crisis and sequestration will affect the agricultural sector.
Farmers and ranchers in rural America have been struggling for years, but luckily for them, Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio’s urban 11th district (Akron), has the solution. The problem is that not enough African Americans serve in leadership roles on the USDA board “to interact with minority farmers.” She demanded indignantly (around 1:17) that Vilsack account for the dearth of minorities on the board, and he responded by nervously and apologetically citing the Cultural Transformation report on diversity of the workforce at the USDA. He then went on to list African Americans who serve in the USDA by name as well as their posts, to the unrelenting dissatisfaction of Rep. Fudge.
Fudge seems to have the unrealistic expectation that minorities be represented with the same frequency as majorities, though there are much fewer of them (just 1.4% of farm operators are African-Americans as of 2007). Neither Vilsack, with his ready-made list of black board members, nor Fudge, with her call to name names, seem to be proponents of a “color blind” approach as a pathway to non-discrimination.