U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Progress toward Implementing GAO's Civil Rights Recommendations

GAO-12-976R: Published: Aug 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 2012.

Additional Materials:


Lisa R. Shames
(202) 512-3841


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

In summary, as of August 2012, USDA had fully addressed three of our recommendations, made significant progress toward addressing two, and made some progress toward addressing one.

Why GAO Did This Study

For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been the focus of federal inquiries into allegations of discrimination against minorities and women both in the programs it administers and in its workforce. In addition, USDA has been and continues to be involved in large civil rights lawsuits claiming discriminatory behavior on the part of USDA, including lawsuits brought by African-American, Native American, Hispanic, and women farmers. In 2002, Congress authorized the position of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to, among other things, provide leadership to ensure USDA's compliance with all civil rights and related laws under all its programs.

In October 2008, we reported on management deficiencies in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR), and included six recommendations. These recommendations call for plans to resolve discrimination complaints, ensure the quality of OASCR databases, and develop a department-level strategic plan for unifying USDA civil rights activities. The recommendations also call for USDA to obtain an independent legal examination of some prior civil rights decisions, obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget to collect demographic data, and explore the potential for an ombudsman office to contribute to addressing civil rights concerns.

This report formally transmits the briefing that was given on July 27, 2012, in response to congressional request for information on the progress USDA has made toward implementing the recommendations in our October 2008 report.

For more information, contact Lisa Shames at (202) 512-3841 or shamesl@gao.gov.

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