Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Female, Hispanic farmers urged to file claims

Female, Hispanic farmers who feel they experienced discrimination from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are being urged to file a claim for compensation.
By: Staff Report, Alexandria Echo Press

If you are a female or a Hispanic farmer or rancher and you believe that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improperly denied farm loan benefits to you for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000 because of your gender or race, you may be eligible to apply for compensation.

You may be eligible if: You sought a farm loan or farm-loan servicing from USDA during that period; and the loan was denied, provided late, approved for a lesser amount than requested, approved with restrictive conditions, or USDA failed to provide an appropriate loan service; and, you believe these actions occurred because you are female or Hispanic.

The Farm Service Agency wants all producers who may be eligible to be aware of this claims process for female and Hispanic farmers and ranchers so they can come forward and participate in these processes.

In 2011, a Class Administrator will begin mailing claims packages to those who have requested one through the Call Center or Website. The claims package will have detailed information about the eligibility and claims process. In order to participate, you must submit a claim to the Claims Administrator by the end of the claims period.

The claims process offers a streamlined 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 claims process provides up to $50,000 for each woman or Hispanic 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 $50,000. Successful claimants may also be eligible for funds to pay the taxes on their awards and for forgiveness of certain existing USDA loans. There is 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.

If you are currently represented by counsel regarding allegations of discrimination against USDA or in a lawsuit claiming discrimination by USDA, you should contact your counsel regarding your claims process. USDA cannot provide legal advice to you. You are not required to hire an attorney to file a claim, but you may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider in your community for additional guidance.

For more information, contact the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429 or access the website www.farmerclaims.gov.

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