Photo: HIspanic female farmers lawsuits against the USDA
The USDA is offering a up a billion dollar settlement in hopes of ending a years-long lawsuit in which hundreds of Hispanic female farmers say they were discriminated against when applying for loans and other assistance between 1981 and 2000.
Late last month, the USDA announced that it would pay up to $50,000 to each plaintiff that could prove “wrongful treatment.” The Hispanic female farmers can either take the settlement which the USDA has set aside $1.3 billion for, or they can continue on with their lawsuits.
Just last year, the government settled with Native American and black farmers over similar discrimination claims. In the end, the nearly 900 Native American farmers who brought the 1999 class-action lawsuit against the government were paid $680 million in damages and $80 million of outstanding farm loan debt. The black farmers received about $2.5 billion in compensation.
However, in this case, at least one of the female farmers, lead plaintiff Lupe Garcia has said she will likely not except the settlement. Garcia sued over 11 years ago, and said a $50,000 settlement will not cover the losses she suffered from discrimination.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislack told reporters that, “This is an effort to give folks a closure or an option closure.” Saying, “We’ve made an effort to turn the page on what has been a tough chapter for us in civil rights.”
In a USDA blog, Vislack wrote: “We are continuing work to build a new era for civil rights at USDA: correcting out past errors, learning from out mistakes, and outlining definitive action to ensure there will be no missteps in the future. The process has been long and often difficult, but my staff and I have been working hard every day to make USDA a model employer and premier service provider that treat every customer and employee fairly, with dignity and respect.”