From HispanicBusiness.com, Rebecca Villaneda, 11 Apr 2011.
A coalition of civil and human rights groups has urged the Obama administration to take a better look at the terms proposed in a case brought on by women and Hispanic farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In February, the USDA offered up to $1.3 billion in settlements to Hispanic and women farmers who claimed discrimination over loans and other assistance between 1981 and 2000, according to http://www.farmerclaims.gov.
Women and Hispanic farmers could earn up to $50,000 each if they could prove wrongful treatment. The coalition—The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—stated that these terms are “far less generous than settlements for Native American and African-American farmers,” according to a press release.
“(Hispanics and women) would also face higher documentation requirements in an award system that does not allow claims based on actual damages and lacks court supervision and lead counsel to shepherd the cases through the claim process.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is made up of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations, including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Equal Rights Advocates.
The group penned a letter to the Obama administration that included five suggested steps the administration can take “to achieve parity in the claims processes for all those affected regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity,” according to a press release.
In comparing the cases, black farmers received about $2.5 billion in compensation and the nearly 900 Native American farmers who brought the class-action lawsuit in 1999 were paid $680 million in damages and $80 million of outstanding farm loan debt, according to the Washington Post.
Of the five suggested steps to modify the claims, one reads: “Provide access to legal counsel for these farmers through claims process, on par with the assistance of counsel benefit afforded to African-American and Native American farmers. Given the requirements of the program, the relative lack of sophistication with legal claims processes of potential claimants as a group, and the fact that many claims stem from discrimination which occurred up to 30 years ago, many claimants may need assistance in filing their claims.”