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NBFA warns farmers to be on lookout for lawsuit scam

BASKERVILLE, Va. — The National Black Farmers Assoc. (NBFA) clarified in a recent statement that attempts to solicit money from African-American farmers for an open discrimination lawsuit is likely a scam.

President of NBFA John Boyd Jr. said the discrimination case in which scammers may be asking black farmers to participate – Estate of Earnest Lee Boyland, et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, et. al. – pertains only to Latino and women farmers. The NBFA believes people are misleading black farmers, trying to imply they can participate in a discrimination case like Pigford v. Glickman, a class action case filed in the 1990s and settled in 2010.

“They are asking black farmers to take part in a specific organization and trying to charge them fees from $100 to $250 – we’ve heard those amounts,” he said.

Further, the closed Pigford case, Boyd explained, did not cost any money to participate in and had specific criteria participants had to meet: they had to have been farming or attempting to farm during the years 1981-97; had to have applied to participate in a USDA aid program; and had to have filed a complaint during that time against the USDA.

Unclaimed funds won in the Pigford case are still being distributed to beneficiaries of those who did participate in it while alive – which may be what is causing some of the confusion.

“Any distribution of funds won in the Pigford case doesn’t pertain to discrimination cases that are currently out there,” Boyd said. “It is too late to take part in the class action suit. You must file current complaints to the civil rights department of the USDA on an individual basis.”

The organization has been receiving so many calls from farmers about these solicitations for money that he felt the need to ask NBFA attorneys to look into the Boyland case. Besides not having any ties to black farmers or the Pigford case, the attorneys say it is also unlikely that case will succeed.

“Specifically, people are calling us asking, ‘Can I get an application for the black farmers’ money?’” Boyd said. “And there is no application. The Pigford case is closed and settled.”

Farmers wanting to review the deadlines associated with the Pigford case can visit which lists the details and deadlines of that case in chronological order.

Though taking part in the money won in that case is impossible for those who did not participate in it while it was open, Boyd understands there were some black farmers eligible for that case who may not have received money due to the adjudication process used to determine eligibility.

“I want to be clear that there may have been African-American farmers who were eligible for the Pigford case but did not receive the money,” he explained. “And I’m very sorry about that, because a judicator can look at my case and look at your case for discrimination and say that yours didn’t qualify even though we could have been in the same area dealing with the same kind of supervisor.

“But that was the process in place to determine who was eligible to take part in the class action case.”

The Pigford case, which eventually won justice for some black farmers discriminated against by the USDA, spanned nearly three decades. During that time, farmers eligible for its compensation were dying before the case ended.

“My dad used to say ‘half a loaf is better than none, because at least some people get to eat,’” Boyd said. “And the reason that I took that settlement was because so many black farmers involved in the case were dying in the process before they could get justice, and I wanted some of the farmers who started out with us in the struggle to receive compensation.”