Thousands of Hispanic and female farmers have been offered a billion dollar settlement from the government in hopes of resolving their claims that they were discriminated against by the USDA.
The proposed $1.3 billion settlement comes just one year after the government settled similar claims with American Indians and black farmers over racial discrimination. Like the Indian and black famers, the Hispanic and female farmers claim local USDA offices denied them loans and other assistance that routinely went to white male farmers between 1981 and 2000.
The USDA announced last month it would set aside $1.3 billion to pay up to $50,000 to each plaintiff that could prove “wrongful treatment.” The Hispanic and female farmers have the choice to take the settlement, or they can choose to continue with their lawsuits. Some of the farmers say $50,000 is not enough to cover the losses they suffered from the alleged discrimination. Lawyers for both the women and Hispanic farmers said their clients deserve more money. To put it into perspective, Indian farmers were offered up to $250,000 each to settle their USDA discrimination claims.
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack said any Hispanic and women farmers who are not pleased with the settlement can sill pursue their cases against the government.
“The Obama administration has made it a priority to resolve all claims of past discrimination at USDA, and we are committed to closing this sad chapter in USDA’s history,” Vilsack said. “Women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who allege past discrimination can now come forward to participate in a claims process in which they have the opportunity to receive compensation.”
UPDATE: The USDA posted an update on March 12, 2014 stating that it is “committed to ensuring the integrity and impartiality of the claims process. A neutral, third party has been tasked with overseeing all aspects of the process, including notifications, to make certain that it is fair and equitable.” While vague, the update seems to indicate that claims are being processed. You can check the status of your claim here: www.farmerclaims.gov/Status.aspx
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