LatinaLista — What happened to Shirley Miller Sherrod and the swiftness of her firing at the hands of her boss Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was an outrage. Yet, what was a bigger outrage was the reason Vilsack gave the press for doing what he did:
Vilsack said he had been focused on trying to address “the longstanding history of civil rights claims made against the department,” and that he was acting in the spirit of trying to eliminate discrimination within the USDA. He referenced the “tens of thousands” of civil rights claims made against the USDA by minority and female farmers.
Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack
If that sentiment was even remotely true then Vilsack would have resolved by now the court case pending against the USDA in Garcia v. Vilsack, where Hispanic farmers have been forced to go to court to get the USDA to compensate for the years of discrimination levied against them through the agency’s farm credit and non-credit farm benefit programs. The federal discrimination has impacted over 80,000 Hispanic farmers. Some have even lost their farms because of biased agents working for the USDA.
“We have been repeatedly and systematically discriminated against by USDA’s farm loan program,” said Modesta Salazar of Pearsall, Texas and a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The Secretary may think that things are improving- but they are not. Nothing has changed. The situation is as bad as ever and our Hispanic farmers are suffering because of this Administration’s policies.”
Rightfully, 24 hours after learning the full extent of his mistake, Sec. Vilsack issued a “profound” apology to Ms. Sherrod and offered her a new position. It helped that mainstream media exposed the real story putting pressure on the White House to make sure things got fixed.
Unfortunately, Hispanic farmers aren’t getting this kind of mainstream exposure but they deserve a long overdue apology and just as swift a solution to their case as well — if Sec. Vilsack is truly sincere in eliminating discrimination within the USDA and righting a wrong that is still ongoing.