Minority farmers seek redress, claim USDA discrimination
By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 21, 2009
In November, the Agriculture Department began negotiations with Native American farmers in a class-action suit alleging systematic discrimination in the agency's farm loan program. About 15,000 black farmers have received almost $1 billion since the settlement of a similar class-action suit, known as the Pigford case.
Hispanic farmers who have filed similar lawsuits hope this means the government may settle with them, too, even though a federal judge has denied them class certification. Female farmers also filed suit but have been denied class certification.
All four groups allege that they were denied farm loans and given loans with impossible conditions because of their race or gender.
Alberto Acosta, a New Mexico chili farmer, sought help a decade ago from the loan program meant as a last resort for farmers who cannot secure private financing. In 1998 and 1999, he was granted $92,000 in loans by the department.
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