USDA announces claims process for Hispanic and female farmers
WILLMAR -- On Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice announced an optional and voluntary program available to Hispanic and women farmers who assert they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans during certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. Those who qualify and submit a timely claim could receive an award of up to $50,000 in cash.
The program involves a streamlined and expedited alternative to litigation that will provide at least $1.33 billion in compensation from a permanent Department of Justice Judgment Fund that does not require congressional approval.
As part of the settlement agreement, USDA will provide a total of $160 million in debt relief to eligible Hispanic and women claimants who currently owe USDA money for eligible farm loans. In addition, successful claimants may receive an amount equal to 25 percent of the combined cash award plus debt relief to help pay federal taxes that may be owed.
Later this year, USDA will announce the opening of a claims period, which will last for 180 days. In order to participate, a claims package must be requested and returned to the claims administrator before the end of the claims period.
The claims package will contain detailed information about the eligibility and claims process. Individuals interested in participating in the claims process may register to receive a claims package by calling 1-888-508-4429, or on line at www.farmerclaims.gov.
Each claims package submitted during the claims period will be processed by a claims adjudicator, hired by USDA, but with independent decision-making authority.
For the purpose of providing potential claimants with additional information regarding the claims process, a public informational meeting will be held at 2 p.m. May 25 at the Willmar USDA Service Center. The USDA Service Center is located at 1005 High Ave. N.E., one block east of the National Guard Armory in Willmar.
Deadline for BCAP project area proposals is May 27
The deadline to submit project area proposals under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is May 27. To be considered, proposals must be submitted to Minnesota's Farm Service Agency state office in St. Paul.
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, authorized by the 2008 farm bill, provides incentives to eligible farmers and forest landowners for the establishment and production of biomass crops for heat, power, biofuels and biobased products.
Project areas are specific geographic regions where producers grow eligible biomass crops and receive an annual payment from USDA for growing those crops.
For more information, visit the Farm Service Agency website at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap, or contact Kelly Novak at 202-720-4053.
USDA proposes new testing requirements for meat and poultry
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry that intends to reduce the amount of unsafe food that reaches store shelves.
Under the proposal, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service would be able to hold products from commerce until test results for harmful substances are received.
Currently, when USDA collects a sample for testing, the sampled products are requested, but not required, to be held until test results are known.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service annually checks billions of pounds of meat, poultry and processed egg products. The agency believes that 44 of the most serious recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented if the proposed testing requirements had been in place.
On March 16, USDA also announced implementation of revised and new performance standards aimed at reducing the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys.
It is believed that the new standards, which require establishments slaughtering chickens and turkeys to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens, will prevent as many as 25,000 food-borne illnesses.
Horse vaccinations being encouraged
Animal health experts warn that fatal cases of mosquito-borne diseases have been reported in numerous states. To prevent additional cases, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is encouraging horse owners and veterinarians to follow the American Association of Equine Practitioners guidelines for vaccinations against mosquito-borne diseases.
According to the association, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus are considered core vaccinations for horse, along with tetanus and rabies.
While annual vaccinations should happen in early spring, the association also recommends boosters after five or six months.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.