Officials Say Black Farmers Lawsuit Sign-Ups Fraudulent

Sumter County, Ala. Newscenter has had reports this week from Sumter County that there are ongoing efforts to sign people up as plaintiffs in the Black Farmers lawsuit. A group was recently in Meridian trying to do the same thing.

But Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced previously that a settlement was approved two years ago and the deadline to be part of it expired in May 2012.

That deadline applies to people in all states, since the settlement was reached with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hood identified anyone still trying to sign people up and charging a fee as "scammers".

A press release from Cong. Terri Sewell's office Thursday said that someone claiming to work for her was taking money from people to sign them up for the lawsuit. Sewell says that is not true.

"It is important that all Alabamians are aware that such claims are false. The farmer discrimination lawsuits are over and the settlement process has ended. It is critical that the public is warned against these scams," said Sewell. "The fact is that the Black, Native American, Hispanic and Women Farmer Lawsuits have been adjudicated. No more claims in these lawsuits can be filed and there are currently no plans to provide additional settlement. The Second Settlement Phase of the Black Farmer Lawsuit (Pigford II) ended on May 11, 2012. The Hispanic (Garcia v. Vilsack) and Women (Love v Vilsack) Farmer Lawsuits ended on May 1, 2013. The Native American Farmer Lawsuit (Keepseagle v. Vilsack) closed on December 27, 2011. In no instance will a member of my staff or a representative from my office approach an individual to request funds in exchange for assistance with these settlements. My constituents are advised to refrain from providing any funds to individuals or groups offering such assistance. If solicited, constituents should notify local law enforcement and report such instances to my Birmingham district office at 205-254-1960 so that perpetrators can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Sewell said her office will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure that minority farmers "are protected from fraudulent scams."