Deborah Berry, Shreveport Times, November 22, 2011
A team of law firms will hold nearly two dozen informational meetings throughout the country over the next few months to help black farmers learn how to file a claim as part of a $1.2 billion discrimination settlement.
Nearly 20,000 black farmers in Mississippi could file claims in this second round, according to the National Black Farmers Association. About 2,300 more claims could come from farmers in Louisiana as well as about 15,000 in Alabama.
The maximum payment per claim could be up to $50,000, but that will depend on the number of successful claimants, said Greg Francis, a lead co-counsel on the case.
That money will represent “only a small token” of what some black farmers lost, said Oak Grove resident James Burrell, vice president of Black Farmers and Landowners of Louisiana. “I know a lot of farmers who lost their place, their everything.”
Macie Donaldson, of Aberdeen, Miss., is anxious to learn if she’ll be among the thousands of black farmers sharing in the settlement. “I think they owe it to me, the way they did us. I wish they would hurry up because, at 80 years old, you don’t know how long you’re going to be here.”
A federal judge gave final approval to the settlement last month, moving black farmers a step closer to receiving payments, possibly as early as fall 2012.
Congress approved the $1.2 billion last year in what has become known as “the Pigford case.” Tens of thousands of black farmers said they were denied loans and other assistance by federal agriculture officials for racial reasons.
The settlement marks the second round of payments for black farmers. Thousands received payments as part of a 1999 class-action settlement in the case. The second round will pay farmers who missed the first filing deadline. Claim forms must be postmarked no later than May 11.