WASHINGTON, March 3 – Last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials ordered auditors from the Government Accountability Office out of their offices, and ordered USDA employees not to speak with them. GAO was investigating allegations that USDA deliberately gave false information to auditors looking into the Department’s alleged mishandling of civil rights complaints.
Environmental Working Group and the National Black Farmers Association, which have been working to win justice for black farmers who were discriminated against for farm loans, issued the following statement:
“We are deeply concerned about the continuing evidence of problems on the part of the USDA in meeting its civil rights obligations under federal law. We urge the Secretary of Agriculture to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” said Ken Cook, EWG president.
“This is a clear case of arrogance by the USDA and Sec. Schafer. The office of civil rights at USDA continues to delay justice by shredding complaints and threatening employees. By not resolving black farmer cases in the office of civil rights, it is business as usual at USDA,” said Dr. John Boyd, NBFA president.
“Secretary Schafer and USDA need to realize that the complaints represent black farmer’s lives. The agency’s denial of our civil rights leaves black farmers slaves to the system,” Boyd concluded.
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The EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group’s farm subsidy database can be found at www.mulchblog.com