Celebrating Hispanic Heritage
October 4, 2022
It’s been a busy week. Over the weekend, I attended the annual Dakotafest in South Dakota along with several RMA colleagues. It is a three-day celebration of the agricultural community, and it was wonderful! The team and I provided a high-level view of RMA programs that benefit South Dakota farmers and ranchers. We shared great information on crop insurance options with producers in the beautiful town of Mitchell in my home state. Thank you to all who supported our engagements!
Hispanic Heritage Month is underway. The observance happens every year beginning September 15, which marks the anniversaries of independence for five Latin American countries and wraps up on October 15.
In the late 1960s, Congress passed a law officially recognizing Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1989, the observance was expanded to a month. Across the country you will find great events celebrating the culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans.
More than 62 million Americans identify as Hispanic or Latino. Over the next few weeks we will celebrate the contributions and rich heritage of Hispanic Americans with USDA virtual events.
I had a chance to talk with Risk Management Specialist, Jaime Valdovinos, who works at our Davis Regional Office. Jaime also serves as RMA’s Special Emphasis Program Manager. In this role he assists in evaluating the effectiveness of the overall equal employment opportunity program and advises leadership on matters affecting the employment and advancement of Hispanic employees. About 14 percent of RMA’s workforce identify as Hispanic/Latino.
Jaime was born and raised on a small farm in Mexico, attended California State University, Chico and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business. He has been with RMA since January 2020.
Marcia: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Jaime: Hispanic Heritage Month means an opportunity to highlight and celebrate our culture’s achievements and contributions. It means recognizing the importance of diversity in the workplace, in our community, and society as a whole. It’s also a time to be proud of your own individual accomplishments and the struggles you’ve overcome that molded the person you are now.
Marcia: It's great that we embrace diversity as an agency, and as a nation.
Jaime: Yes. Our nation is known as the great melting pot worldwide because of the diverse cultures and ethnicities that formed the great nation we currently are. As each of the Federal agencies strive to have a diverse workforce reflecting the diversity of American people, it is imperative to celebrate and share our differences and acknowledge the great strides the RMA has made in achieving inclusivity.
RMA Risk Management Specialist Jaime Valdovinos Special Emphasis Program Manager for Hispanic employees
Marcia: In your opinion, has there been progress toward achieving equity and social justice?
Jaime: I believe our country has made and continuous to make social progress towards equality for underserved groups/communities. Two great examples would be the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009 and the passage of Assembly Bill 1066 in 2016, which allowed agricultural workers in California to receive overtime pay on the same basis as workers in most other industries. Although there still a lot to do to accomplish equality for underserved groups, I believe achievements like these are significant steps in the right direction.
Marcia: What made you decide to become SEPM?
Jaime: Well, I truly believe in the purpose of having Special Emphasis Programs in our mission area. Managing such programs requires a lot of time, effort, and expertise. I decided to volunteer for the collateral position not because of my expertise, but because I wanted to learn more about the program and provide the necessary assistance to ensure successful implementation of such program in RMA.
Marcia: What message do you have for Hispanic/Latino employees about yourself, or what you want them to know about the program?
Jaime: A component of the Special Emphasis Program for Hispanics is to host cultural observances or celebrations, which runs from September 15 to October 15. I encourage everyone to be extra proactive this month and share or teach something about Hispanic culture to your colleagues. A successful Hispanic Heritage Month depends on the level of awareness raised and you can help us accomplish that.
I want to thank Jaime for sharing his experiences and advice. He told me that he has a huge family with 15 siblings and spends a lot of time with them and friends. I’m sure they will enjoy some great festivities during this month.
Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.