black_farmers_2.jpgA court-ordered process of officially notifying African-American farmers and their  heirs  about  the    $1.25  billion “Pigford  II”  class  action  settlement is underway.

Black farmers around the country who tried to file a claim in the 1999 settlement of the discrimination class action  lawsuit but were unable to receive a decision on the merits because their claims were late are now receiving information by mail about their legal rights and options under the settlement.

The notification drive includes a nationwide radio advertising campaign, particularly in areas where large numbers of the farmers are believed to live. Also, a summary of the notice is being published in print publications, including black newspapers, general market daily and community newspapers, and announcements will be posted online, as well.

The plaintiffs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the proposed settlement in late 2010 and President Barack Obama signed the bill on Dec. 9, authorizing payment of the settlement.
If the court approves the settlement, it 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 affected farmers who file valid claims.

Eligibility extends to 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; and 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 they tried to submit it after the late claim deadline.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will consider whether to grant final approval at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 1.

Those who wish to object to the settlement must do so by Aug. 12, 2011.  The deadline for filing claims may be as early as Feb. 28, 2012.

Class  members  should  visit  or  call 1-877-810-8110  for  full information, including the notice, key dates and claims-filing details.

For more information, call the lead counsel, Andrew Marks, of Crowell & Moring, at 202-624-2500; Gregorio Francis, of Morgan & Morgan, 407-420-1414; or Henry Sanders, of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway & Campbell, 334-875-9264.