WASHINGTON, DC - Today a subcommittee for Congress’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform convened a hearing on “Management of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture”. The subcommittee’s intent is to address the myriad concerns about discriminatory practices within USDA and whether recent efforts to improve management of USDA’s civil rights programs have been effective.
“When USDA employees lobby against Pigford remedy legislation, and the USDA turns away GAO investigators auditing the handling of discrimination complaints, it demonstrates that all is not well within the USDA’s civil rights program, “ said Dr, John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association. Boyd testified before the subcommittee as the lead witness on panel 1.
“Our farm subsidy database conclusively shows that not only have black farmers been left out of federal farm program payments, but that their white counterparts, often operating large profitable farms, receive millions in subsidies. There clearly is discrimination and inequity in the payments,“ said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
The NBFA and EWG have collaborated to help bring justice to the plight of black farmers. EWG has released two black farmer specific reports, 2007’s Short Crop, and 2004’s Obstruction of Justice.
Boyd and Cook emphasized two recent events as evidence that discriminatory practices still exist at USDA.
- In February of 2008, GAO auditors were ordered by the USDA to leave their premises and USDA employees were instructed not to cooperate with the GAO auditors. The auditors were conducting an ongoing audit on the USDA office of Civil Rights and its handling of discrimination complaints. According to news reports, the auditors were investigating allegations that the department had previously provided false information for the audit.
- An email sent by an official with the USDA’s Fredericksburg service center in August of 2007 to 40 fellow employees of USDA’s Farm Service Agency urged the employees to work against a Pigford provision in the House of Representatives version of the Farm Bill.