(DAILY CALLER) As part of “a new era of civil rights” at the Department of Agriculture, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Monday that Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who believe USDA discriminated against them can file claims to get a piece of at least $1.33 billion in cash awards and tax relief payments and up to $160 million in farm debt relief, beginning this week.

Women and Hispanic ranchers and farmers who feel the agency denied their loan or loan servicing applications because of their race or gender at various periods from 1981 to 2000 can file claims alleging discrimination from Sept. 24, 2012, to March 25, 2013, for a slice of the payout.

“Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices from the USDA must file a claim by March 25, 2013 in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness,” Vilsack explained in a statement Monday. “The opening of this claims process is part of USDA’s ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers.”

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