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Human Rights Organizations Urge Feds to Reconsider Latino Farmers Settlement Offer

  • LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Elia Ortiz tends his garden plot at the South Central Community Farm on March 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Owner and developer Ralph Horowitz has decided to erect a Wal-Mart warehouse on the site and ordered the eviction of the farmers who won a stay until a March 13 hearing to determine the fate of the 13-year-old community food farm. The 14-acre food garden is operated by about 350 Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant families who mostly live under the poverty line and is reportedly the nation's largest urban farm. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Elia Ortiz tends his garden plot at the South Central Community Farm on March 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Owner and developer Ralph Horowitz has decided to erect a Wal-Mart warehouse on the site and ordered the eviction of the farmers who won a stay until a March 13 hearing to determine the fate of the 13-year-old community food farm. The 14-acre food garden is operated by about 350 Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant families who mostly live under the poverty line and is reportedly the nation's largest urban farm. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Elia Ortiz tends his garden plot at the South Central Community Farm on March 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Owner and developer Ralph Horowitz has decided to erect a Wal-Mart warehouse on the site and ordered the eviction of the farmers who won a stay until a March 13 hearing to determine the fate of the 13-year-old community food farm. The 14-acre food garden is operated by about 350 Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant families who mostly live under the poverty line and is reportedly the nation's largest urban farm. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Elia Ortiz tends his garden plot at the South Central Community Farm on March 9, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Owner and developer Ralph Horowitz has decided to erect a Wal-Mart warehouse on the site and ordered the eviction of the farmers who won a stay until a March 13 hearing to determine the fate of the 13-year-old community food farm. The 14-acre food garden is operated by about 350 Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant families who mostly live under the poverty line and is reportedly the nation's largest urban farm. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is asking the Obama administration to reconsider the settlement offer to Hispanic farmers and women, saying they have "serious concerns" with the government's offer.

The group, a coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations, is demanding that the terms for the Hispanic farmers and women be on par with those of black and Native American farmers, who they claim got a much sweeter deal.

"It is unjustifiable for women and Hispanic farmers to be treated less favorably than other farmers who suffered similar discrimination in government loan programs," said a letter by the leadership conference.

The Hispanic farmers and women were offered a $1.3 billion settlement in February for a discrimination case against the U.S. Agriculture Department. The settlement amounts to about $50,000 a farmer.

The offer came after the government settled a $2.25 million bias case with black farmers, and a $3.4 billion case against Native Americans. The minority groups filed lawsuits several years ago claiming they were denied loans and assistance for years while all the money and help went to white farmers.

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While the Hispanics, whose class-action lawsuit came years after the first two groups, were offered less than the others, their terms are also more stringent, the letter says.

"They would face higher documentation requirements in an award system that does not allow claims based on actual damages and lacks court supervision and lead counsel to shepherd the cases through the claims process," the letter says. "Unfortunately, many of these claimants feel that the differences in the claims processes for various groups perpetuates the United State's pattern of treating women and Hispanic farmers in a discriminatory fashion."

Agriculture Secretary announced the settlement offer on February 25, saying it was trying to close a "sad chapter in USDA's history."

The letter is asks the government to offer a bigger settlement, ease up on the stringent claims process and provide legal counsel to the farmers that would help them navigate through the claims process.

"It is unjustifiable for women and Hispanic farmers to be treated less favorably than other farmers who suffered similar discrimination in government loan programs," the letter says.

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