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USDA Resolves Lawsuits With Women, Hispanics

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Aired 10/17/12

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding meetings across the country with women and Hispanic farmers who believe they were discriminated against when applying for farm loans. The USDA is offering up to $1.3 billion in settlements.

Dust billows as a farmer plows a dry field April 16, 2009 near Buttonwillow, California. Central Valley farmers and farm workers are suffering through the third year of the worsening California drought with extreme water shortages and job losses.
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Above: Dust billows as a farmer plows a dry field April 16, 2009 near Buttonwillow, California. Central Valley farmers and farm workers are suffering through the third year of the worsening California drought with extreme water shortages and job losses.

— The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding meetings across the country with women and Hispanic farmers who believe they were discriminated against when applying for farm loans. The USDA is offering up to $1.3 billion in settlements.

These lawsuits come after the USDA settled two costly class action cases over similar discrimination claims -- one with African-Americans and one with Native Americans.

The USDA will pay up to $250,000 each to Hispanic or female farmer who can prove wrongful treatment and damages between 1981 and 2000.

"These two lawsuits did not receive class certification, which means each individual producer would have to file a lawsuit to receive payment for alleged discrimination," said Robert Piceno, Arizona’s executive director of the Farm Service Agency.

Piceno and his counterparts have tried to simplify the process. So far only about a half dozen people have shown up to meetings in Arizona. Farmers have until March to file a claim and accept the settlement money, or continue with their court case.

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