Discrimination Allegations Continue, Despite Directives to Resolve Complaints

Sep 25, 2002

Subcommittee Chairman's Criticism: "We are pleased to hear of this Administration's open door policy to solving this problem, but a lot remains to be fixed"

September 25, 2002 – Responding to continued concerns raised by Subcommittee Ranking Member Eva Clayton (D-NC), Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman for Department Operations Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) convened a hearing Wednesday for a detailed accounting of allegations against USDA, as well as how the Agriculture Department is addressing continued allegations and improving participant service. The Committee first held hearings on this issue over five years ago.

"When this Committee, acting with the Speaker and other House committees, enacted legislation four years ago to set the stage for the consent decree in Pigford v. Glickman, my colleagues and I thought we were setting things right for black farmers and their families. Sadly, we hear a different story from witnesses this morning. We still regularly hear about discriminatory treatment or delay in resolving complaints," said Department Operations Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Goodlatte called a broad spectrum of panelists to testify about the difficulties that they personally experienced with USDA and to hear about USDA's outreach efforts. USDA Secretary Ann Veneman unfortunately inherited the difficulties stemming from past civil right injustices at the Department. After taking the helm at USDA, Veneman made it a priority to rectify the past problems and continue to advance the Department's civil rights record.

"As stewards of the taxpayer's money, however, we must assure that each allegation is legitimate and that a fair resolution of these claims satisfies all parties, including the taxpayer," said Goodlatte. "As we strive to abolish discriminatory behavior, it is important that any fraud be rooted out as well."

Goodlatte also underscored the importance for the opportunity of all farmers and ranchers to participate in any available USDA farm programs. "It is unbelievable that we still find it necessary to talk about discrimination of any form in this day and age. I want to make it absolutely clear; racism in any government department, agency or program is abhorrent, unacceptable and should not go unpunished. Individuals that enjoy the privilege of Federal employment should not deny American citizens their right to participate in Federal programs," said Goodlatte.

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