Welcome to the Love v. Vilsack Women Farmers litigation website. The purpose of this site is to provide information regarding the status of the litigation and to connect with those who have an interest in the litigation and legislation that aims at addressing the women farmers’ claims.
The lawsuit Love v. Vilsack, Case No. 1:00CV02502 (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) was initially filed on October 19, 2000 by a number of women farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for gender discrimination in the administration of the USDA's farm loan programs.
The plaintiffs sought to have the case certified as a class action on behalf of women farmers and prospective women farmers nationwide who were discriminated against in attempting to obtain farm loans or loan servicing from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) or its predecessor Farmer's Home Administration (FmHA) from 1981 to December 31, 1996 and from October 19, 1998 to the present.
The Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition to certify the Love case as a class action lawsuit. The Court, however, stayed the time period for women farmers who would have been putative class members to file claims in Court since the inception of the lawsuit in 2000. The stay of that statute of limitations lifted on June 8, 2015 for most individuals. In November 2016, the Court entered an Order disposing of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims in the litigation.
Women farmers seeking information about their rights to pursue claims against the USDA for discrimination in its farm loan programs may seek legal counsel or other assistance to determine their rights and options, including the time period in which they might have to pursue any claims.
Click on Current Status of Love v. Vilsack for more information on the status of the litigation.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (November 2016): On November 14, 2016, the Court issued an Order dismissing all of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. In December 2012, the Court had dismissed Counts III through VI of Plaintiffs’ Complaint - claims brought in connection with USDA’s administrative claims process. Given subsequent developments, including rulings in a similar case brought by Hispanic farmers, Plaintiffs had asked that those claims be reinstated. However, the Court declined to reconsider Plaintiffs’ claims, holding that the Court lacked authority to change the terms of the administrative claims process and that Plaintiffs’ claims did not demonstrate a discriminatory purpose on the part of USDA.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (April 2016): USDA filed with the Court a report completed by USDA’s Office of Inspector General, following USDA’s administrative claims process for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. After reviewing the report, Plaintiffs filed a document in Court discussing OIG’s findings and again renewing their request for information, discovery, and a hearing regarding the claims process.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (December 2015): Plaintiffs filed a notice bringing to the Court’s attention a letter written by the Minority Farm Advisory Committee, a group appointed by the Secretary of USDA, regarding USDA’s administrative claims process for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. That letter urged the Secretary to reconsider the large number of claims denied in the claims process. Plaintiffs renewed their request for information, discovery, and a hearing regarding the claims process.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (June 2015): USDA filed a Status Report with the Court on June 8, 2015, describing the overall results of its administrative claims process. That report can be reviewed here. Plaintiffs filed a Response on June 11, 2015, in which they asked the Court to require USDA to provide information about the standards applied, allow Plaintiffs discovery on these issues, and hold a hearing on the results of the claims process. Plaintiffs’ response is available here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (April 23, 2015): The Court ordered that the tolling of the statute of limitations for women farmers to file claims in Court similar to those filed by the named Plaintiffs in the Love case will be lifted on June 8, 2015. This means that women who are not named Plaintiffs in the case who wish to pursue claims in court with respect to gender discrimination in the granting of credit and non-credit benefits against USDA for certain time periods (1981 to 1996 and October 19, 1998 to October 19, 2000, and possibly later in time) should act promptly. Certain women who have claims pending in USDA’s administrative claims process and who are later informed that their claims are rejected as incomplete, may have a longer period to file gender discrimination claims regarding USDA’s loan programs.
UPDATE (November 26, 2013): Today the government filed stipulations of dismissal of the claims of eight of the ten plaintiffs in the Love lawsuit.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (April 2013): On March 25, 2013, the USDA extended the deadline for its voluntary claims process for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. Information about the claim process is available through the USDA’s website at www.farmerclaims.gov. As a result of this extension, the litigation deadlines set in the Love case have been extended as well.
UPDATE (December 11, 2012): On December 11, 2012, the Court granted USDA’s motion to dismiss certain claims in Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amended and Supplemental Complaint. Plaintiffs had argued that USDA’s administrative claims process violates the constitutional rights of women farmers. The Court’s opinion is available here. The Court’s decision does not impact the underlying loan discrimination claims of the named plaintiffs. Since then, the Court has set a briefing schedule that begins after the USDA’s voluntary claims process concludes March 25, 2013. Thereafter, the government will have until May 1, 2013 to file a motion to transfer the ten individual named plaintiffs’ cases, and on or after April 22, 2013 the government will file a motion to end the tolling of the statute of limitations for putative plaintiffs (i.e., all other women farmers similarly situated to the named plaintiffs with regard to allegations of discrimination by USDA in its farm loan programs).
UPDATE (November 12, 2012): National Public Radio recently published an informative story on the plight of women farmers and the challenges posed by USDA’s administrative claims program. Click here to read or listen to NPR’s story.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (October 18, 2012): Women farmers and their attorneys from Arent Fox LLP issued a press release reacting to the administrative claims program that USDA has opened for women farmers. Click here to review the press release.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (October 15, 2012): On October 15, 2012, Plaintiffs filed papers in Court arguing that USDA’s administrative claims program violates the constitutional rights of women farmers because it is less beneficial than programs offered by USDA to African-American and Native American farmers. Plaintiffs’ brief is available here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (September 26, 2012): On September 24, 2012, USDA launched the “Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers Claims Resolution Process” for the resolution of farm loan discrimination claims against the agency. Women farmers who wish to file a claim through the voluntary program will have 180 days to do so – from September 24, 2012 through March 25, 2013. Interested individuals may obtain the USDA Claim Form and other information about the program at www.farmerclaims.gov, a web site run by USDA.
UPDATE (July 13, 2012): Plaintiffs filed their Fourth Amended and Supplemental Complaint with the Court.
UPDATE(June 20, 2012): Following a status conference with the parties on June 19, 2012, the Court issued an Order: (1) allowing plaintiffs to amend their complaint to add claims of discrimination related to USDA’s administrative claims program that will be offered to women farmers; (2) ordering USDA to submit the final Claim Form it plans to use in the administrative claims program to the Court by August 3, 2012; and (3) referring the case to a Magistrate Judge from July 13, 2012 until August 24, 2012 to formulate a schedule for litigation and address other issues, including claims of inequity in the administrative claims program.
UPDATE (January 27, 2012): The attorneys for plaintiffs in the Love case sent a letter to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, endorsing the changes made to the administrative claims program, and urging them to make additional changes to ensure that the program is fair and provides appropriate relief for women farmers.
UPDATE (January 20, 2012): USDA filed an updated “Framework” document, which describes the administrative claims program USDA expects to offer women farmers. USDA also issued a press release on January 25, 2012. Those interested in the details of the program may review USDA’s Framework, which was filed as an exhibit to a status report in the Love case. The claims program will not begin until USDA has selected a claims administrator and announced a start date. After that, those who wish to file a claim will have 180 days to do so.
UPDATE (December 23, 2011): Several Senators and Members of Congress wrote a letter to President Obama, urging that he insist on changes to the administrative claims program to ensure that the program offered to women farmers is fair and equitable.
UPDATE (April 7, 2011): The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with 17 affiliated organizations, sent a letter to President Obama urging the White House to demand improvements to the administrative claims program that will be offered to women and Hispanic farmers by the government.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (February 25, 2011): USDA has announced today that it is launching a program for resolving women farmers and Hispanic farmers’ discrimination claims against the agency. We await additional information from USDA regarding the specifics of the program, but we anticipate that it will include USDA opening a “call center” for receiving names and contact information from potential claimants. (Click here for the USDA’s press announcement.) USDA then plans to disseminate the claims packages to the names it has gathered and to make the claims package publically available for others. Contacting the call center is strictly voluntary, and failure to do so will not prevent a woman farmer from being able to file a claim with USDA through its claim resolution process, or to pursue a claim through other means. The government has stated that the program will provide at least $1.33 billion in compensation and up to $160 million in farm debt relief to eligible women and Hispanic farmers, and that it will provide up to $50,000 for each woman farmer claimant who is successful in establishing that USDA discriminatorily denied her a loan or loan servicing during certain time periods between 1981 and 2000. In addition, the government’s program provides for tax and debt relief. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions, or to contact your counsel for advice on involvement in USDA’s call center and/or claims resolution process, or for them to communicate with USDA on your behalf. Click here for USDA’s web site, www.farmerclaims.gov, to get more information on the government’s claims process and/or to register to receive a claims packet. The web site includes a summary description of USDA’s program, and a notice from USDA to farmers who may qualify for the program.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (December 10, 2009) Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo introduced the Equality for Women Farmers Act, H.R. 4264, on December 10, 2009. This landmark legislation is aimed to address the long-standing discrimination experienced by women farmers in USDA’s farm loan programs. Click here for more information on the legislation.