Director's Corner | Civil Rights Division | NRCS
Chief White recently mentioned that by 2050 the world’s population will be approximately 9 billion. He challenged leadership to think outside the box and come up with more ideas of how we as an agency will serve and provide for those 9 billion human beings. The Chief mentioned that waiting until 2050 to address this concern, was not, or perhaps could not, be an option. He went on to say that NRCS must start preparing today, for tomorrow, if we are to effectively and efficiently serve. So, as I began to think about what I could or would say in response to the Chief’s challenge, a couple of things came to mind.
First, while I will never profess to be a conservation expert, it seems to me, that one need not be an expert, to understand that if we as a nation don’t conserve our resources, then 2050 will find us unprepared. As the Civil Rights Division, we conduct compliance reviews of 10 states annually to ensure compliance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Having said that, I want to applaud all of our states for their implementation of our conservation programs and assistance offered to our many customers! It gives me great hope that the many programs we offer to our customers are laying the ground work for tomorrow’s customers and consumers.
As an aside, I participated in my first Civil Rights compliance review here at NRCS a few years ago. The states and some of our customers were shocked that I left my office and actually came out to see what they did and how they did it. To me, it seemed only natural that if I was charged with ensuring compliance, I had to see it for myself. I went out on these reviews in nothing less than my usual attire: shirt, tie and suit. Only to realize that “out in the field” none of that was necessary. As I met farmers of many race, colors, ethnicities, and gender. I realized that they are the salt of the earth. So, needless to say now when I go on compliance reviews, I don’t take as many suits, but I take the knowledge and expectation that our customers really appreciate what we do as an agency. Our customers really need and appreciate our conservation practices. So the first thing I would say to the Chief when responding to his challenge is: let’s keep doing what we’re doing. Let’s keep ensuring equitable treatment and access to our customers while championing conservation.
Now I know my first response was still “in the box”, so this time I’m definitely shooting for the space around the box.
Frankly, I keep thinking 9 billion people. What will the needs of 9 billion people look like? What role will NRCS play? What responsibilities will we shoulder?
Simply put, I came up with one word: Entrusted. As human beings have been entrusted with our planet. An as an agency, we have been entrusted with our customers and each other. So the last thing I would say in response to the Chief’s charge is: “Let’s be vigilant in our use of technology to develop new conservation practices. Let’s continue to be a leader by creating new opportunities for success for our customers. Let’s use social media to learn of our customer needs and communicate with the customer. Let’s integrate new outreach strategies that eradicate barriers for our underserved population. Let’s help ensure that each and every one of those 9 billion people have safe food and water. Let’s continue to lead and not follow, because 9 billion people are depending on us” and 2050 will be here before we know it.