Judicial Watch • USDA Pays $200k for Diversity Training from Hero Who Beat “Stigma of Minority Group Status”

USDA Pays $200k for Diversity Training from Hero Who Beat “Stigma of Minority Group Status”

USDA Pays $200k for Diversity Training from Hero Who Beat “Stigma of Minority Group Status”

OCTOBER 01, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has paid a Chicago-based firm hundreds of thousands of dollars to culturally transform the agency through diversity training that includes chants about America’s founding fathers being illegal immigrants.

Records uncovered in the course of an ongoing Judicial Watch investigation show how the USDA is wasting taxpayer dollars as it works to fulfill its commitment to “a new era of civil rights” at the agency. A big part of it is making the agency more Latino friendly through a variety of costly programs that we’ll outline later.  

A USDA employee tipped Judicial Watch off about the agency’s nationwide compulsory diversity sessions months ago. JW immediately launched a probe, quickly filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records related to the training. The agency continues withholding crucial parts of the information and has heavily redacted large portions of the files that have been rendered to JW.

Never the less they reveal that the USDA has paid a Chicago-based firm called Souder, Betances & Associates nearly $200,000 in the last two years to undertake a “cultural transformation” of the agency. The company specializes in strengthening the world of work through diversity consulting and lists the following as its areas of expertise; Hispanics at work, race and gender, cultural competencies and healthcare disparities, among others

The firm’s principal owner, Samuel Betances, is a Harvard grad who describes himself as a “biracial, bicultural and bilingual citizen of the world.” Furthermore, Betances’ biography says he’s a “great motivator who rose out of the bowels of inner city poverty, stigma of minority group status, violence, welfare and illiteracy in two languages.”

One of the files obtained by JW includes electronic mail exchanges between Betances and a top USDA official named Vincent Loran. The first one, from October 2011, shows Loran promising Betances that he will keep secret a video of a training session shot on the USDA premises which the agency refuses to release. The other, from January 2012, shows Loran seeking Betances’ blessing, referring to him as a father, and professing his admiration.

The controversial diversity training seems to be part of a bigger plan to make the USDA more Latino friendly. In the last few years the agency has poured millions of dollars into programs that will help fulfill that goal, including $8.8 million to train underserved Hispanics for USDA careers and hiking cash awards for Hispanic farmers who claim the suffered discrimination when seeking farm loans from the agency. 

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