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Hispanic farmers still waiting to be treated equally by the USDA

LatinaLista — Two weeks ago, USDA’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Tony West announced they had finally resolved the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who had filed a discrimination suit against the USDA.

By their own admission, the USDA had historically discriminated against Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who had requested USDA farm loans. A similar discrimination suit against the USDA filed by black farmers had been resolved in 2010.


The USDA announced:

The program provides up to $50,000 for each Hispanic or woman farmer who can show that USDA denied them a loan or loan servicing for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

Hispanic or female farmers who provide additional proof and meet other requirements can receive a $50,000 reward. Successful claimants are also eligible for funds to pay the taxes on their awards and for forgiveness of certain existing USDA loans. There are no filing fees or other costs to claimants to participate in the program. Participation is voluntary, and individuals who opt not to participate are not precluded by the program from filing a complaint in court.

At first glance, it seems the USDA is asking each farmer and rancher to approach them as if it were the first time by putting the burden of proof of discrimination on the Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers. By using phrases like “who can show” and “successful claimants” already indicates that this will be another high mountain to climb in getting justice.

This is justice that has been years and years in the waiting. During this process, some of the farmers have lost their livelihoods and their family properties. To think $50,000 would be enough to cover that is an insult, especially in light of the fact that the USDA settled with Native American farmers for $250,000 per farmer on average. Lawyers representing the Hispanic farmers say that the USDA settlement is 59 percent less than what black farmers received.

Not surprisingly, the Hispanic farmers have rejected the deal.

There’s no amount of money that can buy back lost time, livelihoods, dignity and long lost family homesteads but there is a set amount of money that can help with a fresh start — as long as it’s a good faith amount that can put people back into the farming business.

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