USDA sets filing period for Hispanics who claim past discrimination

COLUMBUS — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in past decades can file claims between Sept. 24, 2012, and March 25, 2013.

"Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices from the USDA must file a claim by March 25, 2013, in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness," Vilsack said. "The opening of this claims process is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers."

The process offers a voluntary alternative to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer and rancher who can prove that USDA denied their applications 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.

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