Pigford: African American Farmer’s Discrimination Lawsuit

On May 27, 2008, the law firm of Pogust, Braslow, & Millrood, filed suit on behalf of hundreds of African American farmers, alleging discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in the application, processing, and distribution of farm loans. An additional 150 discrimination claims were filed by the law firm on May 30, 2008.

The lawsuits represent a decade long coordinated effort by black farming associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), lobbyists, and attorneys, to address years of adverse and discriminatory treatment by local and county USDA offices with respect to African American farmers.

Such discriminatory treatment has been well-documented, including an April 11, 2008, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, setting forth the following statistics:

• In 1920, black farmers in the United States owned 15.6 million acres of land; by 1999 that number had fallen to 2 million, and the number is still dropping by 1,000 acres per day.

• In 1910 there were 926,000 African Americans involved in farming; at the end of the century, just 18,000 remain, and studies report they are going under at five to six times the rate of white farmers.

• In recent farm subsidy payments, just 18 percent of black farmers received government payments in 2002 compared with 34 percent of white farmers.

• The average payment for black farmers was $3,460 versus $9,300 for whites, the study said. Overall, although 5 percent of the nation’s farmers are minorities, they get just 1 percent of federal commodity payments.”

On April 19, 1999, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a settlement agreement and consent decree, benefiting thousands of African-American farmers who suffered such discrimination. Unfortunately, there were thousands of farmers that were never given proper notice of such settlement and as a result, filed untimely.

With the recent passage by the U.S. Congress of the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007 (the Farm Bill), African-American farmers that previously filed a Pigford discrimination lawsuit, but were denied as a result of late-filing, now have an opportunity to re-file and seek relief under the Farm Bill.

If you or someone you know qualifies for relief under the recently enacted Farm Bill, please visit our firm’s Website here.