On the history of the discrimination suits…

“The women farmers’ lawsuit was initiated, along with other minority group farmer discrimination lawsuits, following Congress taking action to retroactively reinstate the time period allowed for farmers to file court claims against the USDA for its discriminatory conduct in administering its farm loan programs.  In doing so, Congress reopened the time period for discrimination claims dating as far back to 1981.  Thus, some of the affected women farmers may now be elderly or even deceased.

“Why did Congress take this action?

“Because Congress had learned the (Reagan) administration had essentially dismantled USDA’s office of civil rights. The very office at USDA that was supposed to receive and process claims of discrimination … was failing to investigate and address those complaints.

“Effectively, these people’s complaints were never heard. And Congress did not discover this until many years later. When it found out how many were complaining about these unresolved issues of discrimination by USDA officials, Congress gave farmers who had been wrongfully discriminated against a new opportunity to bring their claims against the agency.”

Any idea how many complaints were … put in boxes under the desk?

“We don’t. Some were written complaints but many were also verbal. I’m not sure it’s possible to know how many there were because the government’s files are lacking.”

On how a Love settlement might be set up: Track A and Track B as in the Pigford settlement?

“Yes and no.

“The government has published information about how it anticipates having a track, or tracks, in the voluntary claims process. However, there is one maximum amount that can be awarded under either proposed track: $50,000.

“That’s quite different from the other farmer discrimination cases. For example, Pigford had two tracks for black farmers, one for $50,000 and one for greater damages to the extent the claimant could prove the damages.  Under the Pigford II settlement for late-filers, there are also two tracks:  for $50,000 and $250,000.  So, too, in the Native American settlement in the Keepseagle case. The government’s current proposed claims process for women farmers would provide nowhere near the same opportunity for women.

“The government has announced it intends to launch the claims settlement program for women and Hispanic farmers’ discrimination claims. USDA has been holding meetings across the country and has announced a toll-free phone number women can call to provide their contact information so that when the claims program is launched, the government can send them a claims package.”