Following the release of a Government Accountability Office report highlighting deficiencies in civil rights performance at the Department of Agriculture, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have written to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer urging immediate action to correct failures in civil rights reaching back decades.

“GAO’s core finding is that the USDA continues to fail to make adequate progress in protecting civil rights — despite the specific action of Congress to create a new system for action and accountability through the creation of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002,” the lawmakers said.

“GAO concluded that new civil rights accountability structures are necessary at USDA and recommended several options.”

The lawmakers continued: “We do not doubt your commitment to civil rights at the Department and in its programs, yet we cannot afford any further delays, missteps, or sidetracks in effectively solving once and for all this issue of fairness at the USDA.”