"Hispanic and women
farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices in the
past from the USDA have 45 days left to file a claim in order to
have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness," said
Vilsack. "USDA urges potential claimants to contact the claims
administrator for information and mail their claim packages on or
before March 25, 2013."
The process offers a voluntary alternative
to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer and rancher who can
prove that USDA denied his or her application for loan or loan
servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time
periods between 1981 and 2000. As announced in February 2011, the
voluntary claims process 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 eligible Hispanic and women farmers and
ranchers. There are no filing fees to participate in the program.
The department will continue reaching out to potential Hispanic
and female claimants around the country to get the word out to
individuals who may be eligible for this program so they have the
opportunity to participate.
Call center representatives can be reached at 1-888-508-4429.
Claimants may register for a claims package by calling the number or
visiting the website or may download the forms from the website. All
those interested in learning more or receiving information about the
claims process and claims packages are encouraged to attend meetings
in their communities about the claims process and make contact
through the website at any time or through the call center telephone
number Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Independent legal services companies will administer the claims
process and adjudicate the claims. Although there are no filing fees
to participate and a lawyer is not required to participate in the
claims process, individuals seeking legal advice may contact a
lawyer or other legal services provider.
[to top of second column]
Under Vilsack's leadership, USDA has instituted a comprehensive
plan to strengthen the department as a model service provider and to
ensure that every farmer and rancher is treated equally and fairly
as part of "a new era of civil rights" at USDA. In February 2010,
the secretary announced the Pigford II settlement with
African-American farmers, and in October 2010, he announced the
Keepseagle settlement with Native American farmers. Both of those
settlements have since received court approval. Unlike the cases
brought by African-American and Native American farmers, the cases
filed by Hispanic and women farmers over a decade ago were not
certified as class actions. The claims process provides a voluntary
alternative to continuing litigation for Hispanic and female farmers
and ranchers who want to use it.
Audio and video public service announcements in English and
Spanish from Vilsack and downloadable print and Web banner ads on
the claims process for Hispanic and women farmers are available at:
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a
complaint of discrimination, write to: USDA, Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400
Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 866-
632-9992 for toll-free customer service, 800-877-8339 for local or
federal relay, or 866- 377-8642 for relay voice users.
USDA news release received from
Illinois Farm Service Agency]