WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a department-wide language access plan to ensure individuals with limited English proficiency receive meaningful access to USDA’s resources, programs, and activities. The updated language access plan comes on the one-year anniversary of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s language access memorandum to federal agencies.
Timely and accurate communication with the public is essential to USDA’s mission of providing leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management. This plan is an important component of a much broader effort at USDA to make its programs and services more accessible, equitable, and inclusive to those who rely on them. Additional information about this effort can be found at usda.gov/equity.
“USDA’s work touches the lives of everyone across the country, and ensuring meaningful and equitable access to our programs is vital,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Our staff work hard every day to strengthen the services and programs that deliver on our mission, and the policies included in this plan will help make USDA a better and stronger department.”
Under this plan, USDA mission areas, agencies, staff offices, and staff will continue to plan for and provide individuals with limited English proficiency with timely, accurate, and effective communications within all programs or activities conducted by USDA, and work to ensure that providers of USDA-supported programs are complying with their corresponding obligations.
“Federal civil rights regulations guarantee all individuals in the United States the right to equitable access to services, regardless of their level of English proficiency,” said Dr. Penny Brown Reynolds, USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “Language access is a team effort that requires strong support from our agency leaders, and participation from staff across the entire Department to coordinate efforts with the USDA Language Access Plan to ensure accessibility. By working together, we are able to produce information and communication tools that meet the needs of our stakeholders that request services from USDA.”
The policies in this plan are based on the principle that it is USDA’s responsibility, and not that of an individual seeking services, to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to all programs and activities and to foster equity for individuals who interact, or may interact, with USDA over the phone, in writing, in person, or via electronic methods. USDA recognizes that ensuring equity for individuals with limited English proficiency is not limited to the provision of language assistance services and aims to create comprehensive mechanisms that facilitate equity in planning, outreach, stakeholder engagement, allocation of funds, delivery of services, staff training, procurement, as well as performance and evaluation as established by this language access plan.
USDA’s language access plan can now be found at www.usda.gov/oascr/languageaccess and on www.LEP.gov, a website maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
USDA also looks forward to joining the new interagency federal working group, the Federal Language Access Working Group, led by the Department of Justice, which will allow federal agencies to exchange best practices and share language access resources for federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance.