Women Farmers Were Discriminated Against. Now They’re Owed Compensation.
Democratic women lawmakers are pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make sure discrimination settlement funds reach women farmers before time runs out.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a Democratic economic and climate investment bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in August 2022, included a $2.2 billion fund to compensate ranchers and farmers who had previously experienced discrimination in USDA lending programs. The deadline to apply for those settlement funds is October 31.
“As a longtime farmer myself, I know the additional challenges women face to get their job done; to then be denied from lending opportunities simply because of their sex or marital status is not just an added obstacle, but a direct assault on equality,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, an organic farmer of more than 50 years who also serves on the House Agriculture Committee.
In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and first shared with The 19th, Pingree, along with Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, said women farmers have faced systemic barriers to accessing both land and credit.
They’ve also faced barriers when trying to take advantage of past efforts to make up for discrimination: The federal government agreed to pay over $1.3 billion in settlement funds after groups of women farmers and Latinx farmers separately sued USDA for discrimination in the 2000s, the letter noted. But an inspector general report found that only a few thousand claimants received settlement funds and many more were dismissed due to technical errors.