Under President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, reporters, policymakers, and informed observers came to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a modest, yet steady, force for good in the lives of black farmers. The department’s best evidence was an increase in black farmers in the 2012 Census of Agriculture—an increase reported everywhere from The New York Times to USA Today. Our report showed that this narrative had no factual basis. Instead of ensuring that black farmers were treated equitably, USDA’s civil rights office covered up ongoing
discrimination, committing widespread fraud to maintain USDA’s public image.
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