Women, Hispanic farmers’ claims topic at Saturday workshop

A workshop aimed at women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who were improperly denied farm loan benefits between 1981 and 2000 is scheduled for Saturday at the S.J. Parker 1890 Extension Complex at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is being conducted by Othello C. Cross, a Pine Bluff attorney representing minority farmers in the Pigford I and II lawsuits.

Initial Claim Packages were mailed to claimants who requested them Sept. 24. The claims filing deadline is March 25, 2013. The objective of the workshop is to help claimants with their Claim Packages as USDA is not permitted to complete the package nor provide legal advice to claimants, a spokesman said.

In general, women, Hispanics and Latinos are eligible for compensation if they meet the following criteria:

• They sought a loan or farm-loan servicing from USDA during 1981-2000

• A loan was denied, provided late, approved for a lesser amount than requested, approved with restrictive conditions or USDA failed to provide appropriate loan service

• It is believed the actions occurred because they were Hispanic, Latino or a female.

Successful claimants will be eligible for a cash award and debt relief on eligible farm loan debt. Some will also be eligible for tax relief.

A claims administrator will determine if a claims package is complete and submitted on time. Then, an independent claims adjudicator will decide the claim based on the information in the claims package, says Henry English, director of the Small Farm Program at UAPB. Because the administrator’s and the adjudicator’s decisions are final and cannot be appealed, “getting it right the first time” is crucial, says English.

Claimants represented by a lawyer should contact their lawyer regarding the claims process. The 1890 Extension Complex is located on the corner of L.A. “Prexy” Davis Drive and Oliver Road near the new UAPB football stadium.