St. Paul, Minn. (April 13, 2011) – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Minnesota 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 the U.S. Department farm loans.
“USDA will announce the opening of the claims period in the summer of 2011 that will last for 180 days” said Linda Hennen, State Executive Director for USDA. “In connection with the announcement community based organizations, stakeholders and partners that provide services to Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers are encouraged to inform potential clients about the Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers claims process.”
Hennen added that 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.
Nigatu Tadesse, Outreach Coordinator for the Farm Service Agency, noted that it is possible that some Hmong women farmers might be potential claimants.
“It is important that the Hmong community in particular vegetable growers are aware of the claims process for financial compensation due to USDA loans access discrimination,” Tadesse added.
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, according to a press release from USDA. 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, according to the press release. 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 according to Hennen remarks.
Individuals interested in participating in the claims process may register to receive a claims package by calling 1-888-508-4429 or on line at www.farmerclaims.gov.