Detailed Background Information

The Original Pigford Case

In 1997 and 1998, two class-action lawsuits entitled Pigford v. Glickman (“Pigford”) and Brewington v. Glickman (“Brewington”), respectively, were filed on behalf of groups of African-American farmers. Those lawsuits asserted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") had systematically discriminated against African-American farmers on the basis of race, in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

After the Pigford and Brewington cases were consolidated, they were settled by the parties in 1999 and became the largest civil rights settlement in history. The terms of the settlement were outlined in a Consent Decree entered by the Court on April 14, 1999, which stated that eligible claimants were required to file their claims with the case administrator by October 12, 1999. The Consent Decree also stated that claimants who could show "extraordinary circumstances" for missing the October 12, 1999 deadline could file at a later date. September 15, 2000 was set as the "late-filing" deadline.

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. Fewer than 3,000 of the roughly 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.

The 2008 Farm Bill

Congress passed, and on June 18, 2008, the President signed, a law providing claimants with a right to pursue their discrimination claims if they had petitioned to participate in Pigford, but did not have their petitions considered because they were filed late. This law was passed as Section 14012 of the Farm, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the 2008 Farm Bill. Click here to read the full text of Section 14012.

The Farm Bill did not "re-open" the Pigford case. Instead, Congress provided a new right to sue, which is subject to the specific conditions and limitations.

Although the 2008 Farm Bill created a cause of action for many thousands of black farmers, the total amount of funding provided in that bill for valid claims was $100 million.

The February 18, 2010 Settlement Agreement

Recognizing that $100 million would almost certainly not be enough to pay all valid claims, after nearly two years of litigation, on February 18, 2010, attorneys for tens of thousands of farmers and attorneys for USDA entered into a Settlement Agreement that would require Congress to fund an additional $1.15 billion for successful claimants (which would bring total funding for valid claims to $1.25 billion). A summary of this Settlement Agreement can be found by clicking here.

The Claims Resolution Act

On December 8, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which provided $1.15 billion (additional to the $100 million already provided in the 2008 Farm Bill) to fund the February 18, 2010 Settlement Agreement. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 also prescribed several new terms for incorporation into the Settlement Agreement. To read the full text of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, click here.

The Current Status of the Case

The Settlement approved by Judge Friedman on October 27, 2011 resolves all of the claims asserted in the 23 lawsuits that were consolidated into the single case called In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, 08-mc-0511 (D.D.C.).

Judge Friedman’s October 27, 2011 Order approving the Settlement provides that the 180-day period for submitting claims under the Settlement runs from November 14, 2011 to May 11, 2012. Claims that are postmarked after May 11, 2012 will not qualify for an award.

For more information on the estimated timeline for the case, including when valid claims will be paid, click here.