WASHINGTON, June 6, 2011 -- The Court-ordered process of officially notifying African American farmers and their heirs about the $1.25 billion "Pigford II" class action settlement, In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, is underway.
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.
African American farmers who tried to file a claim in the original 1999 Pigford settlement but didn’t receive a decision because their claims were late are now getting information about their rights and options in the mail. A national media campaign through radio and black-oriented newspapers, trade publications and online will also launch.
President Barack Obama signed the bill authorizing payment for the so-called Pigford II settlement in December 2010. If the settlement is approved in federal court, it will resolve discrimination claims against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for farm loans and other benefits. The settlement includes $1.25 billion for cash payments and loan forgiveness for class members who file valid claims. The U.S. 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 eligible for the settlement are African Americans who:
• farmed (or tried to) between Jan. 1, 1981 and Dec. 31, 1996;
• were barred from applying for or were denied a USDA farm loan during that period or given a loan with unfair terms;
• and 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 they tried to submit it after the late claim deadline. Heirs or relatives of individuals who would be eligible but have since died can also be class members.
Anyone who objects to the settlement must do so by Aug. 12. The deadline for filing claims may be as early as Feb. 28, 2012.
Class members can go to www.blackfarmercase.com, or call toll-free 1-877-810-8110 for information on the notice, key dates, and filing claims.