The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) if offering women and Hispanic farmers who feel they were discriminated against a bite at a $1.33 billion pie. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on Monday that the specific group of farmers and ranchers can now field claims for cash awards and for a share of up to $160 million in farm debt relief.
If a member of the group covered by the USDA program feels their loan servicing application was turned down between 1981 and 2000 due to their gender or race, they have until March 25, 2013 to file a discrimination claim, according to the Daily Caller.
USDA Secretary Vilsack had this to say about the relief program:
“Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices from the USDA must file a claim in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness. The opening of this claims process is part of the USDA’s ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers.”
The latest discrimination related program is the third such effort by the USDA to settle with specific groups during the past four years.
In 2000, the Love v. Vilsack class action lawsuit was filed by multiple female farmers who felt they were turned down for USDA farm loan programs based solely on their gender, according to the Women Farmers Litigation website. In 2010, a similar settlement was reached with black farmers when the court determined they were discriminated against by the agriculture agency. Attorneys involved with the case believed the up to 65,000 black farmers were eligible to file for relief and garner a portion of the $1.2 billion fund created by a bill signed by President Barack Obama, the Associated Press reports.