Friday, December 3, 2010
Joe: does this make any sense to you? I suppose farmers can be discriminated by the government if they have a loan program and the loans are given out unequally. But here it seems (see story below) the loan came late. Why is the government even involved in loans to private business at all? The US government should not be involved at all. If loans were to be given it should be by state government. This fiasco will cost the government millions & millions. - Bob
Updated: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:22pm
Now that the U.S. government has dished out billions of dollars to settle discrimination lawsuits with black farmers and Indians, Hispanic and women farmers are pushing to get a piece of the generous reparation pie.
A few weeks ago Congress approved a landmark $4.55 settlement to make amends to blacks and Indians, who say they were victims of the government’s discriminatory practices. A chunk of the money will go to Indians who claim Uncle Sam mismanaged royalties from leases of tribal land, with the rest (around $1.15 billion) going to black farmers and would-be farmers who say they were cheated out of federal aid because of their race.
Proudly announcing the black farmer settlement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that “civil rights has become a top priority” since President Obama picked him to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture and that the agency has “implemented a comprehensive program to correct past errors” and taken “definitive action” to ensure minorities are treated fairly. Hispanic and women farmers plan to put that to the test, announcing this week that they too want lots of cash for their suffering. Their lawsuit was actually filed about a decade ago, but the government hasn’t offered a big enough settlement so they’ve been holding out. Earlier this year the Obama Administration made a $1.33 billion offer to close the case, but they rejected it as “grossly inadequate.”
The recent settlements with two different minority groups has empowered the Hispanic and female farmers who this week blasted the Obama Administration for not treating them as well as their black and Native American counterparts. Their attorney calls it a “slap in the face” because blacks and Indians are going to get “more money and a better process.”
by Brad Woodard / 11 News
Updated Wednesday, Jan 27 2010
HOUSTON—In the shadows of the mountains near El Paso, where New Mexico’s border meets Texas, the remnants of a simple farming life sit mostly idle. Lupe Garcia and his ancestors have been working the land there for centuries. "The Spaniards came in the 1500s, and my family came with the Spaniards," Garcia said. "We were here before the Pilgrims." In 1955, Garcia’s father, a decorated World War II veteran, managed to buy a farm. In its prime, the family was working 1,000 acres. But times have changed.
"Right now, I’m farming 60 acres," Garcia said. "Imagine a business envelope and the postage stamp in the corner. At one point, Mr. Garcia owned the whole envelope. Now he owns the postage stamp, and every day of his life he has to wake up and look out to that," attorney Stephen Hill said. Garcia is now the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "They wanted me to stop and give up. This is not right. We all have the same right to land freedom," Garcia said.
Hill said an Anglo neighbor once approached Garcia as he worked in his field and taunted him. "[The neighbor] came by and said, ‘Keep up the good work. You’re just fixing it up for me,’" Hill said. The neighbor told Garcia the farm would belong to him in 10 years. That was in 1989, and the neighbor’s prediction eventually came true. Garcia was forced to liquidate. "Between 1990 and 2000, they starved us to death. They shut off our credit. They cut our wrist and let us bleed out," Garcia said. More than 100 Hispanic farmers have joined Garcia’s lawsuit. Some of the cases date back to the early days of the Reagan Administration when the civil rights office of the USDA was quietly dismantled. Farmers said their loans were either arbitrarily denied, or in the case of Bobby Ortega, intentionally delayed for months.
"So as the loans came in very late, I didn’t have money to buy fuel, the seed, the fertilizer, and I was losing time. And with Mother Nature you only have so much time to get your crops in," Ortega said.
"White farmers have told me they’ve been notified by the USDA the money is here, come in and get it," Hill said.
But the money came too late for Ortega. "I lost the farms," he said. His only options were to allow the bank to repossess his equipment or somehow pay off his loans. "I took out my life insurance and maxed out my credit cards to pay off these loans," Ortega said. He’s among an estimated 82,000 Hispanic farmers in the U.S., many of whom could be affected by the Garcia case.
Yet the case has languished in the courts. What’s more, a year before the Garcia lawsuit was filed, black farmers were granted class action status in a lawsuit making essentially the same allegations. Rather than risk a trial, the federal government is settling for $1 billion. President Obama has set aside an additional $1.25 billion to cover new claims from black farmers, and yet the Supreme Court recently declined to hear the Garcia case. "That is preposterous, and the only reason the government is doing that is to hope that some of these farmers will give up and go away, and those that don’t give up and go away will die," Hill said.
"They ruined my credibility, my family’s credibility, my kids’ credibility beyond repair. My dad died five years ago," Garcia said. He says the system that was supposed to be there to help them is ultimately doing them in.