[NAFEX] Fw: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at Federation's Conference - has domestic and international significance

rob hamilton lostman_amiga at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 25 14:46:24 EST 2009

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at Federation's Conference - has domestic and international significance
For Immediate Release: February 24, 2009

Contact: Heather Gray 404 765 0991

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/

Land Assistance Fund


USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Makes His First Speech outside Washington 

at the Federation/LAF’s 26th Annual Farmer’s Conference

The historic gathering has domestic and international significance regarding farmers of color

Ralph Paige, Secretary Vilsack, Shirley Sherrod, Congressman Bishop

February 21, 2009 in Albany, Georgia – Federation/LAF Farmer’s Conference

ATLANTA.....On February 21, 2009 the Obama administration’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed more than 300 farmers and agriculture professionals at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s Georgia Farmer’s Conference. It was his first visit to a farm group outside Washington and meant to send a message that the USDA is serious of civil rights issues. “When our first African-American president raised his hand and took the oath of office, we made a huge step in this country. It’s now our job at the USDA to take the next step,” the Secretary told the farmers. He said further that he chose the conference to make his first speech outside Washington because he wants “to send a message. We are serious about civil rights.” Vilsack said that if President Abraham Lincoln, who established USDA in 1862, came back and wondered how the department is doing in supporting farmers, he would learn that “some folks refer
 to USDA as the last plantation, and it has a pretty poor history of taking care of people of color.” 

(For a transcription of the Secretary’s speech, please go to http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/albany/Vilsackspeech.pdf )

The decision of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to choose the Federation/LAF’s Farmers Conference as his first farm group visit is significant  for any number of reasons. When Nelson Mandela was first elected President of South Africa in 1994, his minister of Land Affairs, Derek Hanekom, made his first international visit to the Federation/LAF’s Annual Meeting in 1995 where he was the keynote speaker. Minister Hanekom informed the Federation that there was not a comparable portfolio of ministries any anywhere in the world similar to the land reform issues South Africa was addressing. Because of this he chose to first visit the Federation/LAF whose mission is to assist Black farmers with land retention and sustainability. The parallels are rather striking. Both the Secretary Vilsack and Minister Hanekom expressed appreciation for the work of the Federation and the importance of justice for farmers of color.


New on our website: http://www.federation.coop

• Brief video on the history of the Federation – http://federationsoutherncoop.com/mission.htm

• Audio of Attorney J.L. Chestnut speaking at the Bioneer’s Conference - http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/audiofiles/1J.L.Chestnut.mp3

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 41st year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability. 


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