Apr 10, 2012, 03:10 ET
CRESSKILL, N.J., April 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Qualified Hispanic American farmers who were discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) between 1981 and 2000 can receive lawsuit funding from RD Legal Funding, LLC ("RD Legal") as soon as their settlement amounts have been finalized. RD Legal has been providing lawsuit funding solutions to both plaintiffs and attorneys since 1997.
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The US government's recent establishment of a claims process does not provide a time frame for when qualified claimants can expect compensation. Meanwhile, time has already run out for thousands who lost their farms due to the discriminatory practices of the United States Department of Agriculture. Settlement funding can help qualified Hispanic farmers who are experiencing financial hardship.
Guadalupe L. Garcia is the named plaintiff in the suit against the USDA, of Garcia v. Vilsack. More than 82,000 Hispanic farmers could be affected in the settlement, more than 90 percent of them owning small family farms. The number of Spanish, Hispanic, Latino, or Puerto Rican origin farm operators has increased by 50.8 percent in the continental U.S., from 33,450 in 1997 to 50,443 in 2002. With a 50.8 percent increase in the continental U.S., Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group among American farm operators.
Some of these farmers, like Guadalupe Garcia, trace their history back to Spain's exploration and settlement of the American Southwest. They are responsible for introducing horses and cattle to this country as well as Spanish agricultural traditions including open-range cattle ranching.
Garcia's family has lived in the Southwest longer than the United States has existed. An educated agronomist, Garcia has his Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in Agronomy. From 1969 – 1973 he taught agronomy throughout Central America through a joint program between Oregon State University and the United States Agency for International Development.
In 1973 Garcia returned to New Mexico to farm the family's 626 acres with his father and sons. Garcia was repeatedly denied operating loans, despite a positive cash flow and good collateral and excellent experience in agronomy. After decades of discrimination, he watched as the farm was foreclosed upon and then purchased by a white neighbor for half its assessed value. The same neighbor laughed at Garcia years earlier, saying it was only a matter of time until he got control of the property. Now Garcia farms on rented land and hopes the settlement will make farming a brighter prospect for future Hispanic farmers.
Others farmers in the lawsuit started as farm workers, often migrant day laborers following the seasonal crop patterns, who dreamed of someday owning their own land. As Maria de Lourdes Gonzalez testified, "Like my own family, the Hispanic farmers I worked with (in the California Latino Agriculture Association) started from scratch. They knew what it meant to work, and they worked hard. They just needed the same tools and assistance that FSA provided for Anglo farmers. That's all they asked for." (http://www.garciaclassaction.org)
But the system was stacked against Hispanic farmers. An entrenched "old-white-boy" system of local farmers ruling on FSA loans led to systematic discrimination against women and minority groups including Hispanics, Native Americans, and African Americans. White farmers were given preference for loans and assistance.
In 2000 a group of Hispanic farmers sued the government, claiming widespread and institutional discrimination from 1981 to 2000 by government agents who denied or delayed crucial farm loans, resulting in the loss of many family farms. Although the suit was denied class action status by the Supreme Court, in 2011, the Hispanic farmers were offered a settlement with a limit of $50,000 per claim. The amount offered to settle the case, $1.33 billion, was about 59 percent less than was offered to African American farmers. The government settled similar claims of discrimination with Native American groups for $3.4 billion, amounting to $250,000 per farmer on average.
In February 2012 Hispanic farmers and women farmers were offered an out-of-court review process for settling their claims which lifted the ceiling on settlements to $250,000. Certain plaintiffs may also qualify for a loan forgiveness and tax relief. Nonetheless, plaintiffs will likely have to wait months to receive their settlement funds.
Hispanic farmer plaintiffs experiencing financial hardship are urged to contact RD Legal as soon as their settlement amounts are finalized. Interim settlement financing does not require any kind of payments until the settlement is paid; there are no monthly interest or principal payments, no upfront points or fees. Once the necessary documentation is received, RD Legal can wire funds within days. RD Legal provides personalized service and quick turnaround.
Founded in 1997, RD Legal has established itself as one of the nation's leading providers of lawsuit settlement funding to attorneys and plaintiffs. Contact RD Legal at 1-800-565-5177 or for more information visit http://www.legalfunding.com.
SOURCE RD Legal Funding, LLC
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