USDA Righting Past Wrongs

Here is an update from the USDA about rectifying past discrimination issues among women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers...

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General West Announce Process to Resolve Discrimination Claims of Hispanic and Women Farmers

Obama Administration's Efforts Will Bring Finality to Longstanding Claims of Discrimination in USDA Program Delivery

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2011 – As part of continued efforts to close the chapter on allegations that discrimination occurred at USDA in past decades, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Tony West today announced the establishment of a process to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.

"The Obama Administration has made it a priority to resolve all claims of past discrimination at USDA, and we are committed to closing this sad chapter in USDA's history," said Vilsack. "Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege past discrimination can now come forward to participate in a claims process in which they have the opportunity to receive compensation."

"Under the resolution announced today, USDA and Hispanic and women farmers will be able to move forward and focus on the future," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "The administrative process being established will give Hispanic and women farmers who believe they suffered discrimination the chance to have their claims heard."

The claims process offers a streamlined alternative to litigation and provides at least $1.33 billion in compensation, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. This announcement follows the Obama Administration's settlement of longstanding litigation brought by African American farmers and Native American farmers.

The program announced today provides up to $50,000 for each Hispanic or woman farmer who can show that USDA denied them a loan or loan servicing for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. Hispanic or female farmers who provide additional proof and meet other requirements can receive a $50,000 reward. Successful claimants are also eligible for funds to pay the taxes on their awards and for forgiveness of certain existing USDA loans. There are no filing fees or other costs to claimants to participate in the program. Participation is voluntary, and individuals who opt not to participate are not precluded by the program from filing a complaint in court.

In conjunction with this announcement, USDA is launching an outreach effort to potential claimants that will include a call center for farmers and ranchers, a website, public service announcements, and in-person meetings around the country. Individuals interested in participating in the claims process may register to receive a claims package, or may obtain more information, by visiting www.farmerclaims.gov. Beginning February 25, 2011, individuals can register to receive a claims package by calling the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429. USDA cannot provide legal advice to potential claimants. Persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.

Under Secretary Vilsack's leadership, USDA is addressing civil rights complaints that go back decades, and today's announcement is another major step towards achieving that goal. USDA is committed to resolving allegations of past discrimination and ushering in "a new era of civil rights" for the Department. In February 2010, the Secretary announced the Pigford II settlement with African American farmers, and in October 2010, he announced the Keepseagle settlement with Native American farmers. Meanwhile, Secretary Vilsack continues to advocate for resolution of all remaining claims of past discrimination against USDA.

Audio and video public service announcements in English and Spanish from Secretary Vilsack and downloadable print and web banner ads on the Hispanic and women farmer claims process are available at: http://www.usda.gov/PSAs_Print_and_WebBanner_Ads.xml .

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).


Worker Protection Standard Train the Trainer Class

If you employ workers in agriculture and spray pesticides they must have the Worker Protection Standard training in order to comply with federal law. In order to conduct the training you must have either a current private applicator spray licence or a Train the Trainer certificate. If you need a certificate we have a class for you.

The Train The Trainer Class will be in Bartow at the Extension Office on March 28, 2011, from 10:00 until 1:00. If you would like to register or find out more about the class click here...


Agricultural Pesticide Use in America

Here is a new publication from UF/IFAS about the amount and trends of pesticide use in agriculture in America from EPA data. The publication was not interpreting or drawing conclusions based on the numbers just stating the numbers as facts.

The data shows that the US spent $7 billion on pesticides in each of the years 2006 and 2007. Herbicides accounted for more than half of those expenses. There were more than 600 million pounds of active ingredients applied with over half of that being herbicides. Remember that when you buy pesticide only a fraction of the total is actual active ingredients the rest is either inert or a carrier of some type to deliver the pesticide. It got me thinking about how much pesticide is that really. I could probably fit a ton of active ingredients (a.i.) in my pickup truck. So that would be about 300,000 trucks full of active ingredients. Or two pounds of pesticide a.i. for every man, woman, and child in the US, or 0.265 lbs a.i. for every acre of land in the US. Interesting! Where does all the pesticide go every year? Any comments?

Winter Newsletter

For those of you who may not know already the winter edition of the Environmental Horticulture Production Newsletter is out. You can access the information by going to the Hillsborough County Extension website. Then click on the link for the Winter 2011 Newsletter. Here is the link to the publication for your reading enjoyment.



Communicating from the Farm

This is a survey from UF/IFAS about the need for communication and the tools used to do it for ag producers in an increasingly urban environment. UF wants to know how to help out. Please read the following and participate in the survey.

As the rural-urban interface becomes less distinct we would like to know what kind of communication tools you as agricultural producers need to educate your neighbors and the school children in your community about agricultural practices in their community. We can only do this if we know current practices. How do you communicate with your neighbors? Let us know by completing this survey that is being conducted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension in partnership with Florida Farm Bureau. Based on the survey we will be designing a Good Neighbor Program (GNP) that will help people living in urban-rural interface communities understand more about the importance of agricultural practices. We are also asking School Systems to complete a survey asking how they communicate with you. Please share your communication practices with us and we will use them as part of the new Good Neighbor Program. The survey will take 5 to 10 minutes to complete and we will only use your answers after they have been combined with other respondents' answers and will be completely confidential. Thank you for participating.Email Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5B2MPY9If you have any questions, please call (352) 273-3971, or send an email to FOI@ufl.edu. Thank you for your participation.Joan

USDA Energy Grant Meeting

Here's an educational meeting for those who want to find out more about the USDA renewable energy and energy efficiency loans and grants. The meeting will be held at the Extension office and it is being conducted by Stephen Gran of the Agriculture Economic Development Department. The press release is below.

March 1, 2011
For more information, contact:
Stephen Gran, Agriculture Industry Development Manager
Economic Development Department
Telephone: (813) 272-5506

County Teaming with USDA to Teach Local Farmers and Rural
Businesses How to Fund “Green” Energy Projects

What: USDA Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program Workshop for Local
Farmers, Ranchers and Rural Businesses
Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Time: 1 pm – 5 pm
Where: Hillsborough County Extension Office Auditorium, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner


Hillsborough County’s Agriculture Industry Development Program and Extension Service are
partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office to provide a
workshop on government programs available to assist farmers, ranchers and rural businesses
with renewable energy projects and energy efficiency improvements.
This workshop will help participants learn more about the programs available through the U.S.
Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office.
Specific topics will include:
· Renewable Energy Program – Provides guaranteed loans and grants to help agricultural
producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and
make energy efficiency improvements.
· Biomass Research & Development Initiative – Provides financial assistance for research
and development of biomass based products, bioenergy, biofuels and related processes.
This workshop is FREE, but seating is limited. Please register by calling Alayna Shiver in the
Hillsborough County Economic Development Department at (813) 272-5909.
For more information, contact Stephen Gran, Hillsborough County Agriculture Industry
Development Manager, Economic Development Department, at (813) 272-5506.