The claim filing deadline for all black farmers who were part of the Pigford v. Glickman and Brewington v. Glickman class action discrimination lawsuits filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1997 is May 11.
The 180 day filing period opened Nov. 14, 2011, after U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman approved a settlement Oct. 27, 2011, of the suits that were consolidated in 1999 into one case that became known as Pigford.
Friedman stated in his order that the settlement applies to all farmers or their heirs that filed late claim petitions as part of the April 14, 1999, consent decree, between Oct. 13, 1999, and Sept. 15, 2000, and those who have documented evidence of filing what were termed “late-late” claim petitions from September 2000 until June 18, 2008, the date of the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.
The case only applies to those who have not had a determination either positive or negative on the merits of their claims of discrimination based on race in applying for or attempting to apply for farm loans or other farm benefits in the initial case.
On Feb. 28, 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a $1.25 billion settlement of what became known as the Pigford II claims.
Congress passed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 that funded the settlement in November 2010 and the bill was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010.
Like the original Pigford case, the Pigford II settlement provides both a fast-track settlement process and higher payments to those who go through a more rigorous review and documentation process.
The original Pigford class action discrimination lawsuit culminated in a settlement ruling known as a consent decree that was reached April 14, 1999.
Under the settlement, an eligible recipient is an African American who farmed or attempted to farm between Jan. 1, 1981 and Dec. 31, 1996; who applied to the USDA for farm credit or program benefits and believes that he or she was discriminated against by the USDA on the basis of race; and who made a complaint against the USDA on or before July 1, 1997.
Under the terms of the settlement, claimants had 180 days from April 14, 1999, or until Oct. 12, 1999, to file.
Late filing claimants were asked to request permission to submit a late claim by no later than Sept. 15, 2000.
After concern over the structure of the original settlement agreement, the large number of applicants who filed late, and reported deficiencies in legal representation, a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill permitted anyone who had submitted a late-filing request under the original Pigford lawsuit and who had not already received a legal determination on their claim to do so.
The claims that resulted from this were consolidated into In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, commonly referred to as Pigford II.
Claimant services representatives can be reached by calling 1-877-810-8110 or 1-866-950-5547. Details: Visit www.blackfarmercase.com.
Those seeking to file a claim must register for a claims package that will be mailed to claimants.
Sources for this article include the “Pigford Cases: USDA Settlement of Discrimination Suits by Black Farmers” report from the Congressional Research Service, June 14, 2011; a USDA news release issued Nov. 28, 2011; and from the Oct. 27, 2011, ruling of Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granting final approval of the settlement.