Today marks the opening of the period for Hispanic and female farmers to file claims alleging discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in past decades. Eligible farmers can choose to file claims until March 25, 2013, seeking a cash payment or loan forgiveness rather than pursuing litigation.
The process is open to Hispanic or female farmers and ranchers who can prove the USDA denied applications for loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. The process will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments and up to $160 million in farm debt relief. There are no filing fees to participate in the program.
"Southern Arizonans may have some of the strongest claims out there on this compensation, and I encourage everyone to exercise their full legal rights in seeing that justice is served," Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva said. "The economy is rebounding and people are looking to build their family businesses again, and I applaud USDA officials for seeking to right a historic wrong at the right time."
Call center representatives can be reached at 1-888-508-4429. Claimants must register for a claims package by calling the number or visiting http://www.farmerclaims.gov (not a Congressionally affiliated site).
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, persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.
Unlike similar legal cases brought by African American and Native American farmers, the cases filed by Hispanic and women farmers more than a decade ago were not certified as class actions and are still pending in the courts as individual cases. The newly announced USDA claims process provides a voluntary alternative to continuing litigation for Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who want to use it.