Lincoln, Nebraska, Jul 11, 2011 -- As part of continued efforts to close the chapter on allegations of past discrimination at USDA, outreach meetings are being held throughout the country with farmers and ranchers to talk about the settlement claims process available to women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.
"The Obama Administration is committed to resolving all claims of past discrimination at USDA, so we can close this sad chapter in the department's history," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Fred Pfaeffle. "We want to make sure that any Hispanic or women farmer or rancher 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."
Maxine Moul, State Director for Nebraska Rural Development; Dan Steinkruger, Executive Director for the Nebraska Farm Service Agency, and Craig Derickson, State Conservationist for the Nebraska Natural Resources Conservation Service, are leading the outreach efforts for their respective agencies. This leadership team is talking with individuals, as well as farmer and community organizations to underscore USDA’s commitment to resolving allegations of past discrimination and usher in “a new era of civil rights”.
If you believe that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improperly denied farm loan benefits to you between 1981 and 2000 because you are Hispanic, or because you are female, you may be eligible to apply for compensation. Claimants can register to receive a claims package by calling the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429 or visiting www.farmerclaims.gov.
On February 25, 2011, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Tony West announced a process created to resolve the claims of Women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who assert they faced discrimination when seeking USDA farm loans during certain periods between years 1981 and 2000. The optional 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 Women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers.
Successful claimants are also eligible for funds to pay the taxes on their awards and for forgiveness of certain existing USDA loans. Participation is voluntary and no costs are associated with filing a claim. Individuals who decide not to participate may choose to file a complaint in court. However, USDA cannot provide legal advice to potential claimants; persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.
Audio and video public service announcements in English and Spanish from Secretary Vilsack and downloadable print and web banner ads on the Women and Hispanic farmer claims process are available at: http://www.usda.gov/PSAs_Print_and_WebBanner_Ads.xml.