The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced April 20 that the agency filed civil charges against 6 Hawaii farms and 2 Washington state farms over allegations that they “not only ignored abuses, but also participated in the obvious mistreatment, intimidation, harassment, and unequal pay of the Thai workers” brought to Hawaii by Global Horizons Manpower Company.

The EEOC claims the farms each defendant could pay between $50,000 and $300,000 per Thai worker on their farm and that hundreds of additional potential claimants and witnesses may be added.

But while the EEOC is trying to retrieve money from these farms, at least three of them have been receiving federal subsidies according to the web site, http://farm.ewg.org/, which documents federal aids and grants.

The EEOC, which enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, included Hawaii farms Captain Cook Coffee Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms and two farms in Washington, Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards, in the complaint.

Federal funds allocated to three of these farms include:

Kauai Coffee Company:

  • In 2005, $41,715
  • In 2007, $60,000
  • In 2008, $140,000

$241,715 TOTAL

Maui Pineapple Company:

  • In 1999, $450
  • In 2001, $25,500
  • In 2003, $23,500

$49,450 TOTAL

Green Acre Farms in Washington:

  • In 2001, $41,796
  • In 2002, $54,575
  • In 2003, $78,731
  • In 2009, $31,178

$206,280 TOTAL

All of the farm owners contacted by Hawaii Reporter denied wrongdoing and maintain their working and living conditions were acceptable and their workers were happy. Several farms across the nation receive some sort of federal subsidies or federal grants.

Some statistics on Hawaii farms from the 2011 farm subsidy web site include:

  • $68.2 million in subsidies 1995-2010.
  • $1.74 million in commodity subsidies.
  • $12.8 million in crop insurance subsidies.
  • $30.0 million in conservation subsidies.
  • $23.7 million in disaster subsidies.
  • Hawaii ranking: 48 of 50 States
  • Top Commodity Recipients 1995-2010
  • Top Commodity Recipients in 2010
  • 97 percent of farmers in Hawaii did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA.
  • Ten percent collected 67 percent of all subsidies.
  • Amounting to $37.3 million over 16 years.
  • Top 10%: $14,631 average per year between 1995 and 2010.
  • Bottom 80%: $512 average per year between 1995 and 2010.

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards. Hawaii Reporter has a weekly television news show, News Behind the News, which airs on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.