Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On Tom Vilsack’s Record of Supporting Black Farmers
Monday, February 22, 2021
I’m speaking today in support of Tom Vilsack to be the next Secretary of Agriculture.
Mr. Vilsack has received support from farm and commodity groups across the country, but more important to me, he’s received praise from family farmers in Iowa.
However, a few critics of the former Iowa Governor have raised questions about his record on addressing racial inequities during his time as Secretary of Agriculture.
I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
I’ve long worked toward ensuring black farmers receive justice for the decades of discrimination that occurred at the USDA.
People have often asked me why in the world a Senator from Iowa would get involved in this issue.
While there aren’t many black farmers in Iowa, my state has a long history of fighting against oppression of African Americans dating back to the Underground Railroad. There’s no reason to stop that trend.
In my first discussion with then-to-be Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack in 2009, I brought up my work in the Pigford Consent Decree.
A provision I led in the 2008 Farm Bill enabled more black farmers to bring their claims forward and authorized USDA $100 million for additional settlements.
Mr. Vilsack vowed then to work closely with me on the issue and then immediately got to work.
Under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack, USDA discovered the $100 million wasn’t enough to cover settlements that black farmers were entitled to under the consent decree.
So in 2010, part of Secretary Vilsack’s budget request included over $1 billion to ensure a robust settlement for all black farmers who were discriminated against.
The Claims Resolution Act was signed by President Obama in December of 2010 and implemented successfully by Secretary Vilsack.
Besides the Pigford settlements, a top priority during Secretary Vilsack’s previous tenure was ensuring a comprehensive plan to improve USDA’s record on Civil Rights.
He made it clear to all employees that discrimination of any form will not be tolerated at USDA.
My support for justice to those who have faced discrimination remains constant. And I am looking forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and other leaders in Congress to ensure equal rights for every farmer and family in this country.
I am glad to have the opportunity to set the record straight on Secretary Tom Vilsack’s solid record in pursuing justice for victims of discrimination.
Mr. Vilsack is the right person for this job.
I know Secretary Vilsack will continue to work for the family farmers and spotlight their contributions to agriculture and society.
As an Iowan, that’s part of his nature.
I urge my colleagues to confirm Secretary Vilsack once again so that the Department of Agriculture has the necessary leadership in place to continue its important work; supporting those that feed and fuel the country and the world.