USDA Equity Commission task: ‘Prevent wrongs in the future’
After referring to USDA's self-admitted history of racial discrimination, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a 15-member Equity Commission would try "to prevent wrongs in the future." The commission met for the first time on Monday, the final day of Black History Month.
USDA takes average of 630 days to process civil rights complaints, lawmakers told
For decades, the USDA has been accused of racial and gender discrimination in its programs, hiring and employment practices, and it has been subject to both class action lawsuits and settlements. A hearing on Tuesday examined shortcomings in its handling of civil rights complaints and explored paths toward improvement. (No paywall)
USDA names equity panel members; former union leader will be co-chair
The congressionally approved Equity Commission that will address racial discrimination at the USDA will have Arturo Rodriguez, former president of the United Farm Workers union, as one of its leaders, announced the Agriculture Department on Thursday.
EPA to investigate North Carolina biogas for discrimination
The Environmental Protection Agency has notified North Carolina civil rights groups that it will investigate whether state regulators discriminated against communities of color when they approved four applications to convert hog waste into fuel. (No paywall)
Equity Commission to examine USDA programs and policies for bias
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh will co-chair a congressionally approved Equity Commission to address racial discrimination within the USDA and its programs, announced the Agriculture Department. The USDA has been called "the last plantation" because of racial bias in its operations; it paid $2.2 billion to Black farmers and their descendants in the so-called Pigford settlements of 1999 and 2010.
Sen. Booker sees budget reconciliation advancing debt relief for farmers of color
With a historic program to provide debt relief for farmers of color tied up in litigation, the Biden administration and Congress must use additional tools to get financial support to struggling farmers, experts say. Though they remain confident in USDA’s support of the program, attorneys, …
Wildfires and workplace are top priorities for Biden nominee to oversee U.S. forests
President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.
Preliminary injunction against USDA debt relief for minority farmers
A federal judge in Fort Worth agreed with white farmers that they were unfairly excluded by Congress from a loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers and issued a preliminary injunction that bars the USDA “from discriminating on account of race or ethnicity” in running the …
House panel: Put the brakes on China-owned farmland in U.S.
China would be barred from buying more U.S. farmland and the land already in its possession would become ineligible for farm subsidies under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. On a voice vote, the provision was added to a $197 billion USDA-FDA funding bill headed for a vote on the House floor.
Vilsack calls out farmers suing to block debt relief for minority farmers
Lawsuits to block $4 billion in loan forgiveness for minority farmers show a lack of historical awareness, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the BIO online convention on Wednesday. "It's a wonder where those farmers were over the last 100 years, when their Black counterparts were being discriminated against and didn't hear a peep from white farmers about how unfortunate that circumstance was."
Judge: Suit by white farmers might end debt-relief plan for minorities
A dozen white farmers "have established a strong likelihood" that a loan forgiveness program for minority farmers is unconstitutional, said the federal judge hearing the lawsuit in Green Bay, Wisconsin. District judge William Griesbach issued a nationwide order blocking debt-relief payments by USDA while he decides — possibly next week — whether to issue an injunction against the program enacted by Congress in March.
Bills would disclose race, gender of farm subsidy recipients
The USDA would be obliged to disclose the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients as well as how much money they received under companion bills filed by two Black members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees on Wednesday.
House Ag chairman: Use tax code to encourage purchases from Black farmers
Black farmers "don't have access to the same markets our white farmers have," said House Agriculture chairman David Scott, but the tax code could put them on equal footing. Scott is working on legislation to offer tax incentives to processors and other companies if they buy crops and livestock from Black producers.
‘Justice’ bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers
Black-owned farmland could expand sevenfold under a bill filed by three Democratic senators on Thursday to reverse decades of discriminatory practices by the Agriculture Department, sometimes called "the last plantation." The Justice for Black Farmers Act would enable Black farmers to acquire up to 160 acres apiece at no charge through a USDA system of land grants. (No paywall)
Few farm groups speak out on George Floyd’s death or protests that followed
The National Farmers Union was the first major farm group to call for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day. A handful of groups said this week that they stand in solidarity with protests nationwide against racism and inequality that were sparked by Floyd's death. (No paywall)
Earp ‘isn’t the right person’ to head USDA civil rights office, says House panel leader
The head of USDA’s civil rights office, Trump nominee Naomi Earp, said during a House hearing on Tuesday that some people file multiple complaints of workplace discrimination as a way to punish their managers, “a pretty effective tool” in her view. “These remarks show me — and should show …