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Farmers Lose Ruling on Discrimination Claims

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit declined to revive the claims of female and Hispanic farmers who accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of discriminating against them in administering farm disaster benefits and failing to properly investigate their discrimination claims.

A group of farmers filed a collective action against the government, claiming the agency discriminated against them in administering credit and disaster benefits programs. They also accused the USDA of ignoring their discrimination claims.

The district court refused to certify a class action and dismissed the plaintiffs' failure-to-investigate claims.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., had to decide if the claims for failure to investigate are reviewable under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). It held that they are not.

Judge Rogers noted that the plaintiffs chose not to renew their administrative complaints with the USDA, their alternative to filing suit.

"Congress provided appellants an adequate remedy in court within the meaning of the APA," Rogers wrote. "Appellants are therefore barred from relying on the APA to obtain relief they chose to forego."

However, the court remanded the remaining claims the USDA discriminated in disbursing disaster benefits, because the district court failed to address the non-credit claims.

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