Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos held an outreach meeting in El Paso, Texas this week. The goal was to talk about the process that has been put in place to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.
Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA is addressing civil rights complaints that go back decades and through these outreach meetings, USDA is taking steps towards achieving that goal. USDA is committed to resolving allegations of past discrimination and ushering in "a new era of civil rights" for the Department. In February 2010, the Secretary announced the Pigford II settlement with African American farmers, and in October 2010, he announced the Keepseagle settlement with Native American farmers.
"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 Avalos. "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.
The program, announced earlier this year, provides up to $50,000 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 USDA, this 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.
Those 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.
The event in El Paso is part of a series of outreach meetings that are being held across the country to let Hispanic and women farmers or ranchers know about this process. Potential claimants who were unable to attend today's event, 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.