dwight-bullard_web.jpgSOUTH MIAMI-DADE — Issues affecting minorities in the area’s agricultural industry were on the agenda when Fred Pfaeffle, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy assistant secretary, and state Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, held a joint roundtable discussion with members from the agricultural communities.

A statement from Bullard’s office said Pfaeffle called attention to recent agreements by the federal government to compensate black, Hispanic and women farmers for past discriminatory practices by the department.Between $50,000 and $250, 0000 is available to black farmers who experienced discrimination in acquiring farm loans between 1981 and 2000.

Pfaeffle spoke about the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation Settlement and claim procedures.

The federal government has also allocated about $1.3 billion to compensate Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who have been denied access to farm loans during those years.

The discussion also addressed the potential effects of E-Verify – which deals with confirming the immigration status of workers — and other immigration legislation considered in the Florida Legislature. Bullard said  those proposals are detrimental to small farmers and will result in a decline in the number of laborers available for harvesting crops.

Members of the agricultural community expressed concern about cuts to federal programs designed to reduce hunger and poor nutrition among low-income citizens and called for efforts to increase urban agricultural innovation.

“I think the dialogue and information shared was positive and will result in action from the federal and state governments,” Bullard said. He said as a member of the Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, he will address the concerns raised at the meeting when the 2012 legislative session convenes in January.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF REP. DWIGHT BULLARD

AGRICULTURE CONCERNS: State Rep. Dwight Bullard, addresses a roundtable discussion on agriculture and minorities held recently in South Miami-Dade.