Agriculture, discrimination, Black farm owners, Consent Decree, civil rights policies

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. At the signing ceremony, President Lincoln declared the Department of Agriculture to be the "people's Department" because he said it governed an industry "in which [citizens felt] more directly concerned than in any other. .. ." Today, many American citizens do not share Abraham Lincoln's view of the USDA as being the "people's Department"; rather, they identify it as being "the last plantation" due to its long history of open discrimination against African-American farmers. While this discrimination has occurred throughout America's history, perhaps most disturbing are the more recent events. Within the last two decades, discrimination against African-Americans through the Department of Agriculture's lending programs has been documented, including its failure to investigate thousands of filed complaints of discrimination and general non-compliance with the United States Constitution and other federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race. These unjust actions have contributed to the dramatic decline in farmland owned by African-Americans; indeed, African-Americans experienced a greater loss in farm operations than any other racial group in the twentieth century.