JANUARY 26, 2012
The U.S. government’s minority cash giveaway for “discriminated” farmers has reached a new level, with an improved process that makes it faster and easier for Hispanics to get awards much larger than previously announced.
The goal is to make amends to those who suffered discrimination when seeking farm loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency charged with doling out billions in reparation money. A few years ago black farmers got $1.25 billion to settle discrimination allegations and last summer the Obama Administration announced a new pot of “compensation” cash—$1.33 billion—for women and Hispanics.
Originally, under that plan, Hispanics who felt they were victims of USDA discrimination could get up to $50,000 to make up for their suffering. To get the word out the feds launched an impressive bilingual advertising and public relations campaign that includes national outreach tours by top USDA officials as well as Justice Department bigwigs because that agency is sort of overseeing it.
This month the USDA quietly increased the amount of money that each discriminated Hispanic farmer can collect by five times, to $250,000. The agency also announced an “updated claims process” that simplifies and speeds things up so the victims can get their government cash faster. Victims are encouraged to participate in the simplified process and are assured that there is no filing fee or other costs.
The updated process is part of the USDA’s efforts to ensure that all its “customers” have equal access to its programs, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. It’s also part of the president’s mission to end discrimination at the agency. “The Obama Administration has made it a priority to resolve all claims of past discrimination at USDA, and we are committed to closing this sad chapter in USDA’s history,” Vilsack said.
Under Obama, the agency has served as a key tool to help minorities through a variety of costly programs, mainly the First Lady’s $4.5 billion effort to bring affordable healthy foods to inner cities nationwide. Under the plan, the USDA has dispersed huge sums of money to community groups that promise to make available affordable healthy foods in poor neighborhoods.
The agency has also allocated $8.8 million to train “underserved” Hispanic students to someday work for it. The money is paying for programs that tackle global food security and hunger, climate change, bio-based energy development, childhood obesity (Michelle Obama’s favorite topic) and food safety. In all, 20 “Hispanic-serving institutions” got grants to help the targeted population “develop a skilled American work force” that will someday join the USDA ranks.
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