Over a decade ago, as the Pigford class action lawsuit alleging discrimination against black farmers by the USDA was picking up steam, class attorneys were confident the agency would face discrimination claims by other minorities.

In the years since, those predictions have proven accurate as Native Americans (Keepseagle), Hispanics (Garcia) and women (Love) have laid out a litany of USDA sins they claim need to be addressed in court.

In late February, the USDA announced it would establish “a process to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.”

The USDA said the process would be 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.”

Further, the USDA would provide “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. Hispanic or female 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 opt not to participate are not precluded by the program from filing a complaint in court.”

To find out where the women’s claimant process currently stands, Delta Farm Press recently spoke with attorney Kristine Dunne, Love v Vilsack counsel for plaintiffs. Dunne is with the Arent Fox law firm. Among her comments:

On where Love stands…

“Presently, the women farmers’ discrimination lawsuit – Love v. Vilsack – is still pending in federal court in the District of Columbia. The parties have been in discussions but the case is still pending.

“The government has announced it plans to initiate a voluntary claims processing program. They haven’t said when specifically it will be launched other than sometime this summer.”

 On how much is being sought by plaintiffs…

“The women farmers’ complaint does not specify an amount. There was legislation pending in the last Congress that sought $4.6 billion to remedy the women farmers’ discrimination claims.  The government has announced that it intends to provide $1.3 billion for women and Hispanic farmers combined.”