USDA looks to settle more discrimination claims

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Published: February 28,2011

Tags: agriculture, discrimination, federal government

WASHINGTON — As part of continued efforts to close the chapter on allegations that discrimination occurred at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in past decades, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Tony West have announced the establishment of a process to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.

“Under the resolution announced today, USDA and Hispanic and women farmers will be able to move forward and focus on the future,” said West. “The administrative process being established will give Hispanic and women farmers who believe they suffered discrimination the chance to have their claims heard.”

The claims process offers an alternative to litigation and provides at least $1.33 billion in compensation, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers.

The program provides up to $50,000 for each Hispanic or woman farmer who can show that USDA denied them a loan or loan servicing for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. Hispanic or female farmers who provide additional proof and meet other requirements can receive a $50,000 reward. Successful claimants are also eligible for funds to pay the taxes on their awards and for forgiveness of certain existing USDA loans.

There are no filing fees or other costs to claimants to participate in the program. Participation is voluntary, and individuals who opt not to participate are not precluded by the program from filing a complaint in court.

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