Skip Navigation

Outreach & Advocacy

USDA Civil Rights Cases


Several discrimination lawsuits have been filed against the USDA. The USDA has made it a priority to provide relief to African American, Native American, Hispanic, and women farmers who have made recent claims of discrimination or feel they have been discriminated against.

In 2010, the USDA entered into a settlement to help resolve claims from black and Native American farmers. More recently, the USDA announced similar efforts to help resolve claims from Hispanic and female farmers who can prove they were improperly denied farm loan benefits between 1981 and 2000.

The USDA has made progress to provide relief and compensation to those who were discriminated against. Tom Vilsack stated, “We’ve made an effort to turn the page on what has been a tough chapter for us in civil rights. This is an effort to give folks a closure or an option for closure.”

The USDA strongly believes every farmer and rancher should be treated equally regardless of their race, ethnicity, or gender. Therefore, they have made it a main concern that they resolve the lawsuits and provide relief to those discriminated against. Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers are eligible through a streamline process of compensation for being faced with discrimination. Overall, the USDA will proceed to work so that each employee is treated with fairness, equitably, dignity, and respect. They will also work so that all farmers will not be forced off of their farms because they cannot get the help they need to make it through a bad harvest or because they are denied a loan.

Vilsack also wrote in an USDA blog, “We are continuing work to build a new era for civil rights at the USDA: correcting our past errors, learning from our mistakes, and outlining definitive action to ensure there will be no missteps in the future. The process has been long and often difficult, but my staff and I have been working hard every day to make USDA a model employer and premier service provider that treats every customer and employee fairly, with dignity and respect.”

If you feel you have been not treated fairly or equally by the USDA, please feel free to contact one of the following appropriate organizations via website or telephone:

Hispanic and Women Farmer Claims Process 

Pigford-The Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation 

Keepseagle-The Native American Farmers Class Action Settlement 

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include streamlined delivery of technical and financial assistance; improved programs and services; and flexibility in decision making (with most decisions made at the Tribal, State, or local level).



Beginning Farmer or Rancher

A Beginning Farmer or Rancher means an individual or entity who:

  1. Has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity

  2. Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

    • In the case of a contract with an individual, individually or with the immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located.

    • In the case of a contract with an entity, all members must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. Material and substantial participation requires that each of the members provide some amount of the management, or labor and management necessary for day-to-day activities, such that if each of the members did not provide these inputs, operation of the farm or ranch would be seriously impaired.

Socially Disadvantaged

A socially disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, without regard to their individual qualities. These groups consist of the following:

  • American Indians or Alaskan Natives

  • Asians

  • Blacks or African Americans

  • Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders

  • Hispanics

Note: Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation programs.

A socially disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50 percent ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

Note: One member of an eligible entity may certify for all members rather than have each member self-certify.

Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher

A Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher or Forest Owner is an applicant:

With direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 years, and

Who has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years.

An entity or joint operation can be a Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher if all individual members independently qualify.

Limited Resource Farmer Self-Determination Tool

The purpose of this self determination tool is to enable potential limited resource farmers and ranchers to ascertain eligibility for various USDA programs and benefits.

On-Line Limited Resource Self-Determination Tool

Indian Tribes

Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq. ) that is Federally recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. Tribal Government Relationships website available at:

NOTE: “Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs” available at:



Agricultor (Granjero) o Ranchero principiante


Un Agricultor (Granjero) o Ranchero principiante se define como un individuo, grupo o sociedad que:


a.     No ha manejado una finca o rancho, o bien ha manejado una finca o rancho por no más de 10 años consecutivos. Este requisito aplica a todos los miembros del grupo o la sociedad.

b.     Participará considerablemente y de manera sustancial en el manejo de la finca (parcela) o rancho.

1.     En el caso de un contrato con una persona, ya sea individualmente o con la familia inmediata, la participación material y fundamental requiere que el individuo provea trabajo de manera sustancial y manejo día a día de la finca o rancho, consistente o a tono con las prácticas que se realizan en el área o el estado donde está localizada la finca.

2.     En el caso de un contrato con una sociedad o grupo, todos los miembros de esta deberán participar de forma material y sustancial en la operación de la finca o rancho. La participación material y sustancial requiere que cada uno de los miembros provea alguna cantidad de manejo, trabajo o administración necesarios para las actividades diarias; de tal manera, que si alguno de los miembros no provee estos servicios, las operaciones de la finca o rancho se verían seriamente afectadas.


Personas socialmente en desventaja


Un grupo en desventaja social o socialmente en desventaja, es un grupo cuyos miembros han sido objeto de prejuicio racial o étnico debido a su identificación como miembros de un grupo en particular, sin tomar en cuenta sus cualidades individuales.

Estos grupos son los siguientes:

  • Indios Americanos o Nativos de Alaska

  • Asiáticos

  • Negros o Afro Americanos

  • Nativos de Hawaii u otros Isleños del Pacífico Hispanos

Nota:  El género solo, no es considerado un grupo protegido para fines de los programas del Servicio de Conservación de los Recursos Naturales (NRCS por sus siglas en inglés).


Un solicitante socialmente en desventaja, es un individuo o sociedad, que es miembro de un grupo en desventaja social. Para una sociedad, al menos el 50 por ciento de los miembros (dueños) del negocio agrícola, debe ser propiedad de individuos en desventaja social.


Nota:  Un solo miembro de una sociedad o grupo elegible puede certificar por todos los miembros de ésta, sin que cada uno de los miembros se tenga que certificar individualmente.

 Golo family received assistance through NRCS.

Additional Information

2008 Farm Bill Fact Sheet details assistance available.

USDA Small Farmers Website. This web site is intended to be a one-stop gateway to resources, benefits and services offered by USDA for small farmers.