Hispanic, female farmers face March 25 deadline

Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have until March 25 to file claims, the USDA said.

These groups may be eligible for cash payments or loan forgiveness, the agency said.

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 the period 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.

Call center representatives may be reached at (888) 508-4429. Claimants may register for a claims package by calling the number, visiting the website www.farmerclaims.gov or downloading the forms from the website.