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Deadline approaches for discrimination suits

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 2:02 p.m. CST

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reminds Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the USDA in past decades the filing period closes March 25.

"Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices in the past from the USDA have (until March 25) to file a claim in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness," Vilsack said. "USDA urges potential claimants to contact the claims administrator for information and mail their claim packages on or before March 25."

The process offers a voluntary alternative to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer and rancher who can prove that USDA denied his or her application for loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. As announced in February 2011, the voluntary claims process will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. There are no filing fees to participate in the program.

The department will continue reaching out to potential Hispanic and female claimants around the country to get the word out to individuals who may be eligible for this program so they have the opportunity to participate.

Call center representatives can be reached at 888-508-4429. Claimants may register for a claims package (by calling the number or visiting the website) or may download the forms from the website. All those interested in learning more or receiving information about the claims process and claims packages are encouraged to call center listed above from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

Independent legal services companies will administer the claims process and adjudicate the claims. Although there are no filing fees to participate and a lawyer is not required to participate in the claims process, persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.

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