Ranchers and farmers gathered in Albuquerque this week, in part to raise awareness about claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to discriminate against them.
In the past the USDA has settled discrimination claims with women, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, in some cases for denying grazing permits.
The permits allow ranchers to fatten up their animals by setting them out to forage for extended periods of time on Forest Service land.
But David Sanchez said in some cases the agency had no scientific or technical reason for denying or reducing permits. He’s with the Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association.
“These people that are small permittees, they’re trying to sustain their families, their customs and cultures,” Sanchez said. “You can’t wipe out somebody's operation, cancel their whole permit, with no justification.”
Sanchez said there’s a case pending in federal court where ranchers had to pull their cattle from the Carson National Forest before the grazing season was over.
The head of the USDA acknowledged a history of discrimination and civil rights abuses at the agency when he took office in 2009.