The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning a series of public meetings to discuss diversity issues in the agricultural sector. Tentative dates have been set, December 12 and 13, for the first set of meetings at Delaware State University. Farmers as well as public and private agricultural organizations are invited to attend.
The meetings are part of an ongoing effort by the USDA to increase diversity within the organization. Over the past several years, the department has been sued by several minority agricultural groups, each claiming that they faced systematic discrimination by federal officials.
The Pigford cases are the most prominent example of this racial discrimination. Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, African American farmers alleged that they had been denied access to farm loans and agricultural assistance programs. As a result, black farm organizations initiated a class action lawsuit, which, to date, has paid out about $1 billion.
In addition to black farmers, Hispanics and women have claimed similar discriminatory lending by USDA agencies. Earlier this year, the USDA and the Department of Justice announced that they would pay up to $50,000 to minority groups which can demonstrate that the USDA denied them access to loans.
The larger goal of the diversity meetings is to gage the effectiveness of USDA’s efforts to resolve past instances of discrimination.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer