Today, Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) leaders Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a longtime farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee, Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), DWC Chair, and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to ensure discrimination settlement funds reach women farmers and those who have faced discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the past. Section 22007 under the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congressional Democrats and signed by President Biden last August, provides $2.2 billion in financial assistance for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs prior to January 1, 2021. Pingree, Frankel, and Hayes say implementing Section 22007 is “an important step in addressing the history of discrimination at USDA, including against women and Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC) farmers.”

With the rapidly approaching deadline of October 31, 2023 to file claims, members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus sent a letter urging USDA to conduct robust outreach to women farmers and ensure there are focused efforts to reach all those who have experienced discrimination.

In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, the lawmakers highlighted the many barriers women face to own property and access credit. Despite the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, many women still faced discrimination by USDA at local Farm Service Agency offices, prompting legal action against USDA. 

“To settle claims, the U.S. Judgement Fund provided $1.33 billion and USDA provided $160 million for female and Hispanic farmers. Nearly 54,000 claims were filed for cases of discrimination that occurred before 2000, but an audit by the Office of the Inspector General found that USDA only compensated about 3,200 claimants and expended only about $207 million, while dismissing nearly 60 percent of claims due to paperwork errors,” the lawmakers explained. “Most claimants were never provided the reason their claims were denied.”

Now, women farmers, ranchers, and foresters have another opportunity to apply for just compensation for past discrimination by USDA. Types of discrimination covered include race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, age, martial status, disability, and reprisal/retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

“Money alone cannot make up for the life-long impacts of discrimination. Nevertheless, USDA cannot repeat the mistakes of past settlement processes that have left tens of thousands without recompense due to technicalities,” the lawmakers said. “We urge USDA to contact the women who had previously submitted discrimination claims and provide targeted outreach to additional women who have experienced discrimination since 2000. We also ask USDA to share their outreach strategy with us.”

Visit www.22007apply.gov, for detailed information about application procedures, available assistance, and more. 

The full letter is available here.

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