Race and Farming

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 at 6:08 am

“Hispanic farmers are a piñata to them. They keep beating us and beating us, and then when they hit us down, they still expect us to keep producing and fill their plates.” This is David Cantu’s characterization of his experience, as well as other Hispanics farmers’ experiences in trying to secure loans from the USDA.

With the success of African American farmers’ settlement against USDA (Pigford Case), other minority groups have been encouraged to follow a similar pattern for suit. Native American farmers (Keepseagle Case) have recently entered talks with the Agriculture Department to settle similar claims. Even though Hispanic and women farmers have filed discrimination suits, both “have been denied class certification” by U.S. District Judge James Robertson. “All four groups allege that they were denied farm loans and given loans with impossible conditions because of their race or gender.”

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey believes “Justice dictates that if in fact the government discriminated against a class of people and we recognize that discrimination existed, you don’t use legal barriers — , i.e., opposing class-action status — to shield the government.” Because Hispanics and women have not been granted class certification, individuals would have to challenge the allege discrimination on a case-by-case basis via the courts. However, “the federal government could still decide to treat the cases as classes in a settlement.” At present 110 Hispanic farmers from Texas, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have filed claims. Attorney Stephen Hill says that if class certification was granted to the Hispanic farmers, there will be many more Hispanic farmers filing claims. Hill adds that the “discrimination followed a pretty distinct pattern. Denying applications, repeatedly discouraging them from submitting applications, refusing to assist the farmer, and if the farmer persisted and filed an application, it would be dragged out for months so they couldn’t get the seed in the ground. And often, for the most flimsy excuses like language problems, they put Hispanic farmers in supervised accounts.”

Click here to continue reading Washington Post’s staff writer Kari Lydersen’s article Minority Farmers seek redress, claim USDA discrimination.


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