WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 37 of the nation’s preeminent national Latino organizations, issued a statement regarding its first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with a federal Department.
Secretary Tom Vilsack signed the MOU for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and signing for NHLA was Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chairman and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). Also attending were other USDA senior officials and the heads or senior representatives of a number of NHLA organizations.
The USDA-NHLA MOU, which Secretary Tom Vilsack committed to sharing with the heads of other federal departments, is one of the strongest, most specific and most comprehensive set of commitments ever set forth between a federal agency and a national Latino organization. The wide-ranging document establishes a formal framework for high-level, substantive, results-oriented dialogue and engagement among NHLA organizations, USDA, its sub-agencies and specifically includes Secretary Vilsack. The MOU commits both NHLA and USDA to regular discussions on a range of policies, programs, personnel and partnerships that specifically impact the Latino community.
The MOU’s key elements, found here, include a focus on creating more mutually beneficial partnerships with NHLA organizations; using Latino-related data/metrics as the basis for the USDA-NHLA discussions and relationship; and a strong emphasis on USDA and NHLA working together to find solutions that achieve real, measurable progress with tangible results for Latinos. The MOU also contains planks that address issues for Latinos and USDA such as employment; education; minority business contracting; student/youth programs; Senior Executive Service; Latino representation on Boards and Commissions, and overall USDA outreach to Hispanics.
Through this MOU and the collaborative, high-level engagement that has been ongoing with USDA and will now accelerate, NHLA believes strongly that our community will see even greater progress at USDA, and in other federal agencies, on the still challenging issues of Hispanic underrepresentation. While this MOU will not supplant any existing agreements, indeed the MOU will only strengthen USDA’s current partnerships with NHLA organizations, the agreement with NHLA and its members is a significant step toward advancing our coalition’s goal of fair representation of Latinos in the federal government’s policies, programs and especially its workforce.
It has been well-documented, including data reported by federal agencies, that there is a long-standing, systemic and sharp problem regarding adequate Hispanic representation in the federal government. Addressing this is a key issue for our community and a priority goal of NHLA.