Federation to host workshop on Black Farmer Class Action Lawsuit, March 17

Federation to host workshop on Black Farmer Class Action Lawsuit, March 17

By Rachel Smith
Jozef Syndicate reporter

Representatives from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives are inviting Louisiana farmers to an informational workshop on working with the United States Department of Agriculture, heir rights, taxes, and the Pigford 2 class action lawsuit at Southern University, Saturday, March 17.

Farmers who are a part of the Pigford 2 lawsuit against the USDA will receive assistance from the Federation’s Land Assistance Fund to prepare for the class action suit. These farmers and their families have already filed discrimination claims against USDA in connection with thousands of other Black farmers nationwide.

“It has taken 20 years to provide the opportunity for thousands of farmers who were discriminated by the USDA to have some relief if they prevail in the lawsuit,” said workshop organizers. “Our intent is to provide as much detailed information as possible to assist farmers with the claims process,” said John Zippert with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

According to the federation, there are assumptions that it is still possible to sign up for the lawsuit in 2012. However, to be in the lawsuit, individuals had to have filed a petition between October 13, 1999, and July 18, 2008, when the Farm Bill passed Congress.

The workshop will offer Pigford 2 claimants information about who qualifies in the lawsuit, the claims process, how to meet in front of class counsel, and what is needed to provide a narrative about the discrimination they experienced at USDA.

Farmers who are not connected to Pigford 2 will receive details on what materials they need for filing general claims with USDA and other information on working with the USDA. According to Mircha King with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, farmers do not have to bring documents to the workshop, however note-taking materials will be needed. “I will tell them the documents that they should have to complete their claim package. We will discuss all issues related to farmers, like heir property, taxes, and materials that people can take with them counsel,” said King.
The workshop begins at 9:30 am at the Southern University F. G. Clark Activity Center. Registration is not required but farmers are encouraged to arrive early.
The federation is hosting similar workshops across Southern states, including Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions and a range of services to ensure family farm survival. The presidents from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans offices along with field officers will be available at the workshop for questions and to offer assistance.

For Pigford 2 claimants, there are no rights of appeal and no room for error in filling out the claim form. Farmers are encouraged to bring the persons helping them with their claims to the workshop, said King.

Pigford 2 farmers can call EPIQ, who administers the Pigford 2 lawsuit, at 877-810-8110 with questions about being in the lawsuit and to make an appointment with an attorney. For more information on the Federation, call 800‐503‐5678.

At the same time, the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center is hosting a three-day conference on current trends and issues in agriculture. The Louisiana Small Farmer Conference, starts March 15 at the Ag Center and registration is $25, said Dawn Mellion Patin, agriculture extension specialist at the center. To register for the conference, contact Patin at (225) 771-3532.

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