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USDA opens discrimination claims process to Hispanic, women farmers

Posted On: Sep. 25, 2012 12:00 AM CST

Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege they have been victims of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have until March 25, 2013, to file claims, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Mr. Vilsack on Monday said filing a claim will give Hispanic and women farmers the chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness.

“The opening of this claims process is part of the USDA’s ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers,” Mr. Vilsack said in a statement.

The process is a voluntary alternative to Hispanic or female farmers and ranchers who can prove the USDA denied their applications for loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000, the department said in the statement.

The program, which was announced in February 2011, will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to those who are eligible.

Independent legal services companies will administer the claims process and adjudicate the claims, according to the USDA.