The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who believe the agency had discriminated against them could file claims for part of $1.33 billion in cash awards and tax-relief payments and up to $160 million in farm-debt relief.
The effort is part of “a new era of civil rights,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The Daily Caller
The ranchers and farmers who believe USDA denied their loan or loan-servicing applications because they were Hispanic or women from 1981 to 2000 may file the claims alleging discrimination from Sept. 24, 2012, to March 25, 2013.
“Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices from the USDA must file a claim by March 25, 2013 in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness,” Vilsack said in a statement published by The Daily Caller. “The opening of this claims process is part of USDA’s ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers.”
In February 2011, Vilsack introduced the department’s “path to justice for Hispanic and women farmers,” providing an outlet to receive compensation for past wrongs without having to go to federal court.
This is the third settlement to interest groups the USDA is believed to have discriminated against during the Obama administration.
Last year, USDA reached a $1.25 billion settlement with African-American farmers regarding pending claims and completed a $760 million settlement with American Indian farmers who had been discriminated by the agency.
The agreement with black farmers, known as Pigford II, involving discrimination that had occurred when seeking loans from 1981 to 1996, was cited in news reports last year because of allegations of widespread fraud, The Daily Caller reports.
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