HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Memphis-based organization representing black farmers is asking Pine Belt farmers with legitimate claims to join its class-action lawsuit against the USDA.
The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association hosted a meeting Tuesday at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.
The group filed suit in 2015, alleging that black farmers were discriminated against in the second-phase of a previous court settlement.
In October of 2017, an appeals court ruled in the group's favor, meaning that some 15,000 farmers and their heirs could collect payouts of more than $1 billion.
"We're here to say to our membership the lawsuit is yet on, you have an opportunity to receive information and to be adjudicated by the panel as to whether or not your claim is meritorious," said David A. Hall, ecumenical adviser for the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Inc.
"The government has decided through court and through Congress that there was discrimination, now time has come for those people to receive those claims if possible. Some will, some won't. We know that this lawsuit will not long be in effect, so it's urgent right now for people to come on board," Hall said.
In 1999, a settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the USDA was approved by a federal appellate judge. The suit claimed African-American farmers, between 1983 and 1997, were denied crop loans and other assistance based on race.
Congress added a provision to the 2008 Farm Bill allowing farmers who missed a September 2000 deadline for filing claims in the initial suit to petition the court.
In 2010, $1.2 billion was appropriated by Congress for the second phase of settlements.