contributed…..WASHINGTON, February 25, 2013- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today reminded Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the USDA in past decades that there are fewer than 30 days remaining in the filing period closing March 25, 2013.  ”Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices in the past from the USDA have fewer than 30 days left to file a claim in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness,” said Secretary Vilsack. “USDA urges potential claimants to contact the Claims Administrator for information and mail their claim packages on or before March 25, 2013.”  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 1-888-508-4429. 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 attend meetings in your communities about the claims process and contact the website at any time or the call center telephone number Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Website: www.farmerclaims.gov

Phone: 1-888-508-4429

Claims Period: September 24, 2012 – March 25, 2013.