Grassley: USDA wrong to pressure 4-H on LGBTQ policy |

Grassley: USDA wrong to pressure 4-H on LGBTQ policy

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said that the Agriculture Department was wrong to pressure the Iowa 4-H to remove a policy statement welcoming LGBTQ members to the group, the Des Moines Register has reported.

In a series of stories last week, the Register revealed that Heidi Green, then the chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, pressured USDA officials to tell Iowa 4-H to remove a policy welcoming LGBTQ members.

The pressure campaign engulfed other state 4-H organizations and precipitated the firing of Iowa 4-H director John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, an advocate for the policy, the Register reported.

Last Tuesday, Grassley said, “Common sense tells me that that for 100 years … 4-H has been operating as a very competent organization and I don’t know of any federal interference in the past,” the Register reported. “So why would you have it in this particular case?”

Acknowledging he wasn’t aware of “the control that USDA has over the 4-H,” Grassley said he believes that the group “should be relatively free of government control,” the Register reported.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ organization, is asking for “any and all records” related to the White House and Perdue “attacking” LGBTQ youth “by calling for the inclusion policy’s removal,” the Register said in a separate story.

4-H had included the positive statement on LGBTQ members as part of an effort to modernize the organization and encourage diversity.

The Cultivating Change Foundation, a national group set up to make life easier for rural LGBTQ youth and to connect LGBTQ graduates of land-grant institutions with employers, held its annual summit in Des Moines last summer and is scheduled to hold its second summit there June 19-21, 2019.

“Adverse events that take place around the issue of LGBTQ inclusion in agricultural organizations are reason enough to continue the conversation about elevating awareness of the community and connecting viable inclusion strategies to all stakeholders,” said Marcus Lee Hollan, co-founder and executive director of the Cultivating Change Foundation.

“The 4-H programs serve as a foundational development place for youth, especially those living in rural communities,” Hollan said. “4-H should be a place where all students can be their authentic self, as they evolve as leaders in their communities.”

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