NOVEMBER 03, 2011
The federal agency that’s spending huge sums to recruit more food-stamp recipients, transform the inner city diet and track what minority kids eat for lunch is investing millions to train “underserved” Hispanic students to someday work for it.
It’s part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to help minorities advance with publicly-funded programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given “Hispanic-serving institutions” $8.8 million to “support underserved students” interested in “critical issues” related to agriculture. The idea is to boost the number of Hispanics on the agency’s payroll.
The money will pay for programs that tackle global food security and hunger, climate change, bio-based energy development, childhood obesity (Michelle Obama’s favorite topic) and food safety, according to a USDA announcement. In all, 20 “Hispanic-serving institutions” or HSIs will get grants to help the targeted population “develop a skilled American work force” that will someday join the USDA ranks.
The allocation comes within days of a separate USDA Minority Farmer Advisory Committee meeting to boost minority participation in agency programs and services. That particular panel was created as part of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s commitment to “a new era of civil rights” at the agency. The committee’s mission is to figure ways to “better serve minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.”
The new HSIs allocation will help train the next generation of food and agriculture researchers, according to USDA Under Secretary Catherine Woteki, who points out that by 2025 nearly one-quarter of the nation’s college-age population will be Latino. However, she points out that not enough of them are receiving college degrees. “Our goal is to make college education more accessible at institutions dedicated to serving the Hispanic population, while training the next generation of food and agricultural researchers who will play a key role in solving the major challenges before us,” Woteki said.
Here are some examples of where the money is going. Three different universities in Texas will each get $800,000 to train “under-represented” Hispanic students for USDA careers in food safety, U.S.-Mexico livestock inspections and sustainable energy. A south Florida university will also get $800,000 to train Hispanics in biological and natural sciences for “career placement in USDA” and schools in New Mexico and Puerto Rico will each get the same amount to mentor students in natural resource management and agriculture disciplines.
A university in southern California will get more than half a million dollars to “increase the retention and graduation of underrepresented students” for USDA careers through a paid watershed management internship program. A separate California school will receive $284,000 to train Hispanics to work on “transitional plant breeding genomics projects” and yet another California college will get nearly $300,000 to train “Hispanic leaders” to “tackle childhood obesity.”
The USDA has gone on a manic spending spree this year to promote minority programs and public assistance. A few months ago it wasted $5 million to recruit more food-stamp recipients even though the number has skyrocketed in recent years. The agency has also wasted millions to bring farmers markets to urban areas and track what minority public school children eat for lunch.
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