USDA Official Meets with Hispanic and Women Farmers to Discuss Process for Resolving Discrimination Claims in Florida
MARIANNA, Fla., July 21, 2011 – As part of continued efforts to write a new chapter for civil rights and resolve all allegations of past discrimination, USDA's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Fred Pfaeffle held a series of outreach meetings today and over the last week with farmers and ranchers. Pfaeffle took questions and talked about the process that has been put in place to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers in Florida who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.
"The Obama Administration has taken comprehensive, definitive actions to move the Department into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider," said Pfaeffle. " Our goal is to ensure 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 USDA announced earlier this year with the Department of Justice provides up to $50,000 for 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. 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. Hispanic or women farmers 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. There are no filing fees or other costs to claimants to participate in the program. Participation is voluntary, and individuals who decide not to participate may choose to file a complaint in court. However, USDA cannot provide legal advice to potential claimants, and persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.
Today's event 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. Over the last week, Pfaeffle held outreach and constituency meetings in Miami, West Palm Beach, Gainesville, Ocala and Marianna, Florida. Potential claimants who were unable to attend the events can register to receive a claims package by calling the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429 or visiting http://www.farmerclaims.gov.
Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA is addressing civil rights complaints that go back decades and through these outreach meetings, we are 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.
Audio and video public service announcements in English and Spanish from Secretary Vilsack and downloadable print and web banner ads on the Hispanic and women farmer claims process are available at: http://www.usda.gov/PSAs_Print_and_WebBanner_Ads.xml.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).