Time is running out for Hispanic and women farmers who claim they have been victims of discrimination by the Department of Agriculture within the past two decades.

Claims will only be accepted until March 25th and, if successful, will give the suers a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness. 

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 certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

In a statement released Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reminded the public of the upcoming deadline. "USDA urges potential claimants to contact the Claims Administrator for information and mail their claim packages," he said.

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.

Latinos have claimed for years that they have been discriminated against by the USDA, specifically denied loans because of their ethnicity.

In recent years the USDA has paid money to Native-Americans and African-Americans for discrimination.

The Department said in a statement that they will continue reaching out to potential Hispanic and female claimants around the country to get the word out to individuals who may be eligible for this program so they have the opportunity to participate.

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