DeLauro seeks improvements to claims process

Rosa DeLauro

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice recently requesting that the agencies take steps to address continued unfair treatment against women farmers under the Administrative Claims Program.

According to a press release, two court cases — Garcia vs. Vilsack and Love vs. Vilsack — allege that the USDA improperly denied women and Hispanic farmers loan benefits as did African-American and Native-American farmers in similar cases that have been settled. In an effort to provide relief, the USDA has created the Administrative Claims Program to resolve the claims of farmers who allege they were unjustifiably denied benefits because of their ethnic background or gender.

“While we applaud the administration for working to resolve the discrimination claims, we remain troubled by the different treatment that women farmers will receive under the proposed claims process,” DeLauro and Eshoo wrote in a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder. “We believe that women farmers should be offered the potential for compensation on similar terms as African-American and Native-American farmers. We strongly urge the administration to improve the program before it is launched.”

In their letter, DeLauro and Eshoo cite continued barriers for women to access relief from the claims program, such as exclusion if their spouse filed in another claims process, or if a woman filed a claim in a previous program that was never evaluated. The lawmakers also expressed that information about outreach and notice of the program to women farmers who may have been discriminated against is still limited, causing concern that affected women may never know of their benefits or miss the filing period. DeLauro and Eshoo also cited that, unlike Native American and African-American farmers, there is no proposal by the administration to include legal representation for women.