Discrimination-claims process extended with May 1 deadline

A Virginia farmer and his mule take part in a 1999 demonstration by black farmers against the settlement of African Americans farmers’ lawsuit against the Agriculture Department.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the application deadline for Latino and women farmers who can prove they were victims of loan discrimination between 1981 and 2000. The government has set aside more than $1.3 billion in cash awards and tax-relief payments and $160 million in debt relief to resolve discrimination claims. The USDA has acknowledged years of denied, reduced or delayed federal farm loans to Latinos, women, African-Americans and Native Americans. The government previously settled class-action suits filed by tens of thousands of black and American Indian farmers. The agency previously set a March 25 deadline but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack extended it to May 1, “to make sure any potential claimant has a right of redress,” said Lilian Salerno, acting administrator for rural business. “He wanted to make sure no one was left out.” Federal officials held forums across the country to explain the discrimination claims process, including events in Moreno Valley in January and in Indio in 2011. For information on the process, call 888-508-4429 or www.farmerclaims.gov.