A claims process deadline aimed at making up for past discrimination by a government agency has been extended.

The voluntary claims process that has been extended is for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture in past decades.

All claims must now be filed by May 1st, 2013.

“Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices in the past from the USDA have additional time to file a claim in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The claims process offers a voluntary alternative to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer and rancher who can prove that USDA denied his or her application for loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

The voluntary claims process will make at least $1.33 billion available for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief to those that are eligible.

Claims packages can be downloaded at www.farmerclaims.com, and call center representatives can be reached at 1-888-508-4429 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. through 8 p.m.