USDA Accepts Discrimination Claims for Hispanic and Women Farmers

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Agricultural officials were in Bernalillo County Tuesday to encourage Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers to apply to a fund to address past discrimination.  Affected farmers denied federal loans can apply for up to $250,000 in compensation.

Representatives from the US Department of Agriculture held a public meeting to explain the application process for filing claims.

Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who applied for loans between 1981 and 2000 are eligible.  The voluntary program gives settlements to people who can provide documentation of past discrimination. 

Lawrence Rael is the state Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency.  He says the meeting is part of a statewide outreach effort.   

"Because we do have a higher concentration of Hispanic farmers and ranchers and women farmers and ranchers than most other states in the country, New Mexico is one of the top five states in the country being really focused on by the department of agriculture and the US department of justice to make sure that we get out this information."

Rael estimates that 5000 claim applications have been requested so far.

The USDA will hold more meetings throughout the state in coming months.  The deadline to apply for compensation is March 25th, 2013.  For more information, the USDA has set up a hotline and website for inquiries.

The hotline is 1-888-508-4429 and the website is www.farmerclaims.gov