Carol Sanders |School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Black farmers everywhere are wondering what’s next in the Pigford II lawsuits. In 2010 attorneys representing 30,000 farmers in the Pigford II lawsuit reached a settlement with the United States Department of Agriculture to resolve most of the cases contingent upon an additional appropriation from Congress.
In late 2010, Congress appropriated $1.25 billion to fund the Pigford II settlement. Since then farmers have been contacting Dr. Henry English, director of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), asking about Pigford II.
First, Dr. English is warning Black farmers to be wary of individuals and organizations targeting Black farmers to request payments to help Black farmers join the class action lawsuit. “No one can get you into the lawsuit, if you are not eligible,” says Dr. English.
Pigford II is for those class members who filed a “late-filing claim” under the original Pigford consent decree sometime after October 1999 and prior to June 2008. The names of most of these individuals will be on the ‘Pigford Timely 5(g) List,’ says Dr. English, who recently returned from a Pigford II update session at the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation in Fargo, Ark.
Farmers whose names are not on the list must prove with documentation that they submitted a late-filing request. Later on they will be asked to furnish a detailed, completed claim form. Farmers represented by counsel must also submit the attorney’s statement stating that the claim is based on existing law and the facts are true and correct.
The $1.25 billion appropriation is sufficient to cover approximately 20,000 claims. If there are more successful claims, then the amount will be prorated among the claimants. For example, if there are 40, 000 successful claimants, then each will receive approximately $25,000 in compensation and tax benefits instead of $50,000, says Dr. English.
The attorneys are now negotiating the final revisions to the settlement agreement to satisfy requirements made by Congress in the recent legislation. Once the revisions have been negotiated, only five steps remain until farmers can be compensated sometime in mid-to-late 2012.
The steps are as follows:
Preliminary approval of the settlement by the Court
Public notice of the settlement
A Court hearing on the fairness of the settlement, which will probably occur in the summer of 2011
A 180 day claim period, probably in Fall 2011 and Winter 2012
Decisions and payment
Pigford II has two tracks just as Pigford I. The main differences are that Pigford II Track B recovery is capped at $250,000, requires proof with documentary evidence and is judged on a higher standard of proof than Track A. The maximum recovery for Track A will be $50,000 plus tax payment and debt relief.
Farmers who are uncertain whether or not they are eligible to file a claim can call the Pigford II toll free number at 1-866-472-7826. Dr. English reminds those who did not file a claim in Pigford I that they are not eligible for Pigford II, which is only for individuals who did not receive a decision on their Pigford I claim.
Most claimants can receive legal counsel free of charge from the class counsel. Other lawyers will be limited on the amount they can charge. Track B claimants will incur class counsel or individual counsel fees, which are capped.
Information is also available on the web site at http://www.blackfarmerclaims.com.