In January of 1999, Judge Paul Friedman signed an order which was supposed to settle a long and bitter class action lawsuit against the
U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Two years prior to that, the lawsuit was brought by a handful of black farmers who alleged that unfair racist practices by the agency caused them to suffer unnecessary hardships, and in some cases, even to lose their farms.
The judge approved the largest settlement to date at that time. It was a settlement which would give those who qualified at least $50,000 and cancellation of any debt owed to the USDA.
But some are concerned still. Since the order was handed down,
those involved with the case say only a fraction of the farmers have received the money.
"Less than 1% of each state has gotten a chance to participate. So, the other 99% is still available," said legal researcher Thedford Rowser.
She says this meager figure is true for Mississippi and Alabama, where less than 1% of those who would qualify have applied.
Rowser says that just this year the judge in the case reaffirmed that the settlement not only includes black farmers but also anyone of African descent who has been discriminated against by the federal government.
"This is involving a discrimination lawsuit, denial of credit between the years of 1981 and 1996," Rowser said,
Although people can still apply to take part in the settlement, Rowser says those who qualify must apply soon.
"The monitor has until March 1, 2007, for us to participate in this lawsuit but you have to first file a complaint," says Rowser.
Rowser has now formulated a complaint form. She's encouraging anyone taking part in the lawsuit to send a copy of this letter to their congressional delegation.
The letter alleges that the affected parties were never properly notified about the settlement.
For more information on the black farmer's lawsuit you may contact Thedford Rowser in Demopolis at (334) 289-2347.