Magazine article Black Enterprise

Black Farmers Sue USDA for $20.5 Billion: Mismanaged 1999 Settlement Sparks Class Action Lawsuit

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Black Farmers Sue USDA for $20.5 Billion: Mismanaged 1999 Settlement Sparks Class Action Lawsuit

Article excerpt

In September the Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association (BFAA) and 11 other plaintiffs filed a new suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Seeking $20.5 billion and class action status for up to 25,000 black farmers whom the organization claims were denied fair loans and farm programs between 1997 and 2004.

The suit follows a July report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which showed that the 1999 settlement between the USDA and the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), who accused the department of discrimination between 1981 and 1996, never yielded compensation for a majority of the growers who filed claims. Payments were denied to 81,000 of the 94,000 black farmers who sought restitution, according to the EWG report.

"We get hundreds of calls every day from black farmers around the country saying 'Hey, I haven't gotten my check,'" says John W. Boyd, president of NBFA.

Under the terms of the settlement, black farmers could file claims in one of two tracks. For Track A, a minimal amount of evidence would be needed to prove discrimination, and claimants who were found to be eligible would receive a flat fee of $50,000. For Track B, a larger amount of evidence would be evaluated in a hearing, yet there was no cap in terms of how much relief farmers could receive.

Of those who were refused payment, 64,000 were said to have filed their claims after the original deadline. But according to the EWG report, those claims were, in fact, filed in time to meet a late claims deadline established by the court. …

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