The court-ordered process of officially notifying African American farmers and their heirs about the $1.25 billion “Pigford II” class action settlement is under way.
African American farmers around the country who tried to file a claim in the 1999 Pigford Settlement but were unable to receive a decision on the merits because their claims were late are now receiving information about their legal rights and options under the settlement by postal mail. A comprehensive paid published notice program will complement this direct notice. The program will include a nationwide radio advertising campaign, including heavy focus on areas where large numbers of class members are believed to live. A summary notice will also be published in a variety of print publications, including African American newspapers, general market daily and community newspapers, and farming and ranching trade publications. Finally, online ads will appear on a variety of websites.
The plaintiffs and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the proposed settlement in late 2010, and President Obama signed the bill authorizing payment of the settlement on Dec. 9, 2010. If approved by the court, the settlement will resolve discrimination claims related to USDA farm loans and other benefits. The proposed settlement includes $1.25 billion for cash payments and loan forgiveness for class members who file valid claims.
Class members eligible for the settlement are African Americans who farmed (or attempted to farm) between Jan. 1, 1981 and Dec. 31, 1996; were prevented from applying for, or were denied a USDA farm loan during that period, or were given a loan with unfair terms. It also includes those who filed or attempted to file a late claim between Oct. 13, 1999 and June 18, 2008 in the original Pigford case that was never considered because it was submitted after the late claim deadline.
Heirs or kin of people who fit this description but have since passed away may also be class members.
Those who wish to object to the settlement must do so by Aug. 12, 2011. The deadline for filing claims under this settlement may be as early as Feb. 28, 2012. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia will consider whether to grant final approval of the settlement at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 1, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.
Class members should visit www.BlackFarmerCase.com or call (877) 810-8110 for complete information, including the detailed notice, key dates, and claims-filing information.