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The Pigford Case: USDA Settlement of a Discrimination Suit by Black Farmers

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Abstract:

On April 14, 1999, Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman approved a settlement agreement and consent decree resolving a class action discrimination suit (commonly known as the Pigford case) between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and black farmers. The suit claimed that the agency had discriminated against black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983-1997. The deadline for submitting a claim as a class member was September 12, 2000. Many have voiced concern over the structure of the settlement agreement, the large number of applicants who filed late, and reported deficiencies in representation by class counsel. This report highlights some of the events that led up to the Pigford class action suit and outlines the structure of the settlement agreement. It also discusses the number of claims reviewed, denied, and awarded, and some of the issues raised by various parties.