Last Updated on September 28, 2002 by Paulette Brown-Hinds

Representative Joe Baca (D-Rialto) will question U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on Wednesday, September 25, about whether the Department’s Farm Service Agency and Office of Civil Rights acted improperly while investigating complaints of discrimination against Latino farmers.

The questions will be posed at a House Agriculture Committee hearing, and will focus on claims by minority farmers that the FSA has improperly denied or delayed federal farm loans, and that OCR has not conducted proper and timely investigations into the claims.
Since 1997, groups of African-American, women, Native American, and Latino farmers have filed class action lawsuits against the Department alleging discrimination in the Department’s loan process. The Department has generally issued stays of foreclosure for farmers involved in African American or Native American class action claims involving FSA loan programs, but failed to issue stays of foreclosure for Latino class members in the Garcia v. Veneman suit. Baca and other members of the Committee will be asking why the different classes have been treated differently.
“The only explanation for the disparity in the treatment of Latino farmers and other farmers in this case is that the Department of Agriculture was already embroiled in class action litigation with African American and Native American farmers, and wanted to discourage any further lawsuits,” Baca said. “It’s inherently discriminatory to treat one class of litigants differently than the others, even though their claims are just as legitimate.”Honolulu, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Memphis, New York, Seattle and San Francisco.