USDA’s unnecessary diversity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new emphasis on increasing diversity on commodity research and marketing boards would just be silly if it didn’t have the potential to be so disruptive.

It’s just another example of government not paying attention to the reality of business.

Earlier this year, the USDA asked boards to “make an effort to nominate women and minorities as they are represented in the industry.”

If they’d bothered to look, they’d see plenty of diversity. That is, “as they are represented in the industry.”

That means, on boards such as the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the National Mango Board and Hass Avocado Board, there are a number of Hispanic members because they’re heavily involved in those industries.

Women sit on about every board in the industry because they’re increasingly involved in so many businesses.

Anyone who’s been to a produce industry convention will note there is a lack of black industry members, and that lack of diversity among that demographic is reflected on many boards.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a problem with the board structure, as USDA implies. Mandating changes in board representation will not get minorities more involved in businesses. But having more minorities involved in business will get them more board representation.

The Obama administration, through USDA, says its goal is “to represent as many voices as possible” on boards.

The fresh produce industry already does this because it’s good for business.

Misguided government decrees are not.

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