Department of Agriculture:

Hispanic and Other Minority Farmers Would Benefit from Improvements in the Operations of the Civil Rights Program

GAO-02-1124T: Published: Sep 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2002.

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For years, some minority and women farmers have alleged that the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) discriminates against them, treating them differently from other farmers during the loan approval or foreclosure process. During fiscal years 2000 and 2001, FSA took, on average, four days longer to process loan applications from Hispanic farmers than it did for non-Hispanic farmers: 20 days versus 16 days. The FSA's direct loan approval rate was somewhat lower for Hispanic farmers than for non-Hispanic farmers nationwide: 83 and 90 percent, respectively. USDA's policies for staying foreclosures when discrimination has been alleged depend on the method used to lodge complaints. When an individual's discrimination complaint is accepted by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), FSA's policy is to automatically issue a stay of adverse action, such as foreclosure, until the complaint has been resolved. OCR has made modest progress in the length of time it takes to process discrimination complaints. USDA requires OCR to complete the investigative phase of processing a complaint within 180 days of accepting it. In fiscal year 2000, OCR took an average of 365 days to complete just the investigative phase. Although OCR slightly improved this average to 315 days in fiscal year 2001, this continues to exceed the department's internal 180-day requirement.

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