Agriculture Committee Opens Hearings on Minority Farmers

Mar 6, 1997

Agriculture Committee Opens Hearings on Minority Farmers: Bi-Partisan Atmosphere Keys Inquiry into Discrimination Charges

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and bi-partisan leaders on the committee today announced the opening of hearings on charges of racial discrimination in programs and functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as the committee released it's schedule through March 19.

The Committee has a busy schedule of hearings and business meetings, including a full committee hearing on trade, as well as subcommittee hearings on Electronic Benefits Transfer systems for distributing food stamps and discrimination complaints against USDA.

"Obviously, the charges of discrimination in USDA-administered programs are a serious matter, and the Committee will undertake an equally serious, thorough, and bi-partisan inquiry, starting at Chairman Goodlatte's subcommittee," said Smith, the Committee's Chairman.

"The USDA has done its own review and, well-intentioned as it might be, we nonetheless have an obligation to exercise our oversight responsibility into these charges. This has implications not just for the complainants, but for all of USDA as we look into prospects for the Department's reorganization," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture.

"Given Chairman Smith's early interest in investigating complaints of discriminatory lending practices and racial bias within USDA, and considering the broad bi-partisan support for doing so, I am confident the Congress will closely monitor the manner in which the Department addresses these issues," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's ranking Democrat.

"I'm pleased that we're moving forward in a positive and bi-partisan way. This hearing is an important first step toward eradicating the problems identified in the report. This hearing will provide Congress an opportunity to hear from USDA officials who conducted the investigation as well as farmers and employees who will be impacted by the findings," said Rep. Eva Clayton, the Subcommittee's ranking Democrat.