Merrigan Touts Women’s Programs

In her recent visit to Tuskegee, Alabama, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan touted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s commitment to benefiting women and minority farmers.

With African American farmers finally getting a judicial green light to receive settlement money as part of a longstanding class action discrimination lawsuit against the USDA, Vilsack, Merrigan, and agricultural officials hope to create a new climate within the agricultural sector. Vilsack hopes that a new focus on women and minority farmers can help undo some of the damage done by years of racial and gender discrimination and can help create a more diverse agricultural industry.

“This department has not always had its door open for women and people of color,” Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan told The Associated Press. “We’re still dealing with civil rights issues.”

Recent surveys seem to indicate that the USDA is succeeding in drawing more women into agriculture. The most recent agricultural census lists women as making up 30 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million farmers and ranchers, a 19 percent increase from 2002. With an aging farm population ready to retire, Merrigan hopes that this number can be improved and that young women can be convinced to join the agricultural workforce.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer