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Justice for Latino Farmers

ImpreMedia, Editorial, Staff Posted: Sep 01, 2009

Traduccin al espaol

Latino farmers expected that the Obama administration would remedy the discrimination they have suffered for decades at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Instead, the White House remains an obstacle to closing a shameful chapter in racism.

There is no question that the agency long discriminated against African American and Latino farmers in how it issued loans. Rural aid programs regularly offer support to farmers in times of need during the agricultural cycle. This could mean, for example, situations where the lack of liquidity for purchasing seeds can lead to a farmer going bankrupt. Yet, the USDA systematically denied these critical loans to black and Latino farmers.

The USDA eventually acknowledged its discriminatory practices. To this point, the federal government has negotiated out-of-court agreements of more than $2 billion in compensation to African American victims of the USDAs discrimination.

And Latino farmers?

They continue waiting for justice.

For nine years and against many hurdles, Hispanic farmers have waged a legal battle in courts to seek justice for the undeniable discrimination they experienced. Instead, the judicial system and federal government should be applying the precedent established with African American farmers and negotiate a similar agreement with Latinos.

The groundwork is already laid for this outcome: The USDAs public acknowledgment of its discriminatory practices, a letter from seven Republican and Democratic senators to Obama demanding a remedy, the compensation provided to African American farmers and the statements of agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Despite all of this, the USDA stands in the way of what should be a resolution to years of injustice that excluded 85,000 farmers from the benefits and opportunities given to others. The strategy of the federal government is to divide the demands of various cases in order to diminish the strength of this lawsuit and delay overdue reparations.

After offering a $1.25 billion settlement to settle discrimination claims by African American farmers, President Obama said he hoped to close this chapter in the USDAs history.

President Obama: The chapter has not been closed yet. Thousands of Hispanic farmers expect the same treatment and justice that the federal government has dispensed but denied to them. An entire community now awaits a response.

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