Hispanic and Women Farmers to be Heard: USDA pushes to resolve past discrimination cases

MICHIGAN – James J. Turner – the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan – is urging the state's Hispanic and women farmers who may have experienced discrimination from the USDA to contact the department.

"The Obama Administration is committed to resolving all claims of past discrimination at USDA," says Turner. "Our goal is to ensure that any Hispanic or woman farmer who alleges discrimination is aware of this option to come forward, to have his or her claims heard and to participate in a process to receive compensation."

The USDA is part of a program wherein the Department of Justice provides up to $50,000 for each Hispanic or woman farmer who can show that the USDA denied them a loan or loan servicing for discriminatory reasons during certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

The new 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.

Hispanic or women 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 decide not to participate may choose to file a complaint in court. However, USDA cannot provide legal advice to potential claimants, and persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.

Are you a potential claimant? Register to receive a claims package by calling the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429 or visiting www.farmerclaims.gov.