Pigford II settlement process prompts new rumors, misinformation
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 - New rumors swirling around the “Black Farmers Discriminiation Litigation Settlement,” commonly known as Pigford II, prompted black farmer advocates to respond to what they describe as concerns about “misinformation circulating around the South about the lawsuit.”
“We, the "Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates" are aware of the fact that in some states there are meetings being held suggesting, unfortunately, that it is still possible to get into this lawsuit. This has led to considerable misinformation circulating around the South about who is entitled to seek an award under the settlement,” the groups noted in a press release.
“The fact is that in order to file a claim in the Pigford 2 lawsuit, a claimant must be able to show that they submitted a written request to participate in the Pigford 1 lawsuit between October 13, 1999 up to June 18, 2008 when the 2008 Farm Bill passed Congress. Further, no one should have to pay money to be part of the Pigford lawsuit.”
Members of the Network include: Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, National Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Land Loss Prevention Project, Mississippi Family Farmers Association, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Rural Advancement Fund, Texas Landowners Association, and United Farmers, USA.
A 180-day claim window was part of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and plaintiffs to settle "Pigford II" litigation for $1.25 billion. Congress passed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 that funded the settlement in November 2010, and the bill was signed by President Obama in December 2010. The claim period opened Nov. 14, 2011, and will end May 11.
The statement was issued after some news reports indicated that individuals were trying to sign up new claimants. For example, Patricia Burkett reported on “SCNow” that an individual opened a store in Bennettsville where residents could pay a $10 fee with the understanding that it would help to potentially include them as claimants in the Pigford II settlement. See: http://bit.ly/ydoSdK
The Pigford case has also been in the news as a result of various legal firms touting their expertise on the Pigford II case as a way to build their businesses.
According to a release issued Feb. 9, “RD Legal Funding has dramatically increased new business since June of 2011 when Joseph Genovesi joined the firm as Senior Vice President of New Business Development. The company attributed what it describes as its “explosive growth” in part by “extending lawsuit settlement funding to plaintiffs as well as attorneys.” In June, 2011, RD Legal expanded its business to fund plaintiffs, including “assisting farmers who are part of the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation (Pigford II),” according to the release.
“Rather than waiting months or years to receive your award, we will purchase your unpaid settlement and give you cash within a few short days of receiving your completed application. You can use this money immediately for whatever purposes you need,” the firm noted on its web site.
RD Legal is not currently listed on the http://www.blackfarmercase.com/ as a law firm representing clients in the case. A complete list of law firms, as well as pages of background and supporting information, is available on that web site.
“While approximately 22,700 claimants filed claims before the October 12, 1999 claims deadline, approximately 61,000 additional individuals requested permission to file claims after the October 12, 1999 claims deadline but before the September 15, 2000 "late-filing" cut-off date,” according to http://www.blackfarmercase.com/.
“Fewer than 3,000 of the 61,000 "late-filers" were found to have demonstrated the required "extraordinary circumstances" for receiving extra time to file their claims. As a result, more than 58,000 "late-filers" did not have their discrimination claims heard. In addition, thousands of additional potential claimants filed late-filing petitions after the September 15, 2000 late-filing cut-off, but before June 18, 2008, the date of final enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill.
For more information on the case, call (877) 810-8110 or (866) 950-5547 or visit www.blackfarmercase.com.
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