Pigford Case Timeline

  • Pigford v. Glickman filed — A Black farmer named Timothy Pigford and 400 other plaintiffs filed a federal suit against the USDA and the then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman alleging racial discrimination against African Americans in the agency’s allocations of farm loans and assistance between 1983 and 1997. The suit was filed by several law firms, most notably Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, and Pettaway LLC, the largest Black law firm in the state of Alabama and one of the largest Black law firms in the U.S.
  • After the case was filed, it was thought that 2,000 Black farmers were discriminated against, not just the original 400 plaintiffs
  • Pigford v. Glickman settled — Under the consent decree, a two-tiered mechanism for dispute resolution was established:
    • Track A: claimants who could successfully provide the basic evidence required by the DOJ and the USDA would receive $50,000, as well as relief in the form of loan forgiveness and offsets of tax liability.
    • Track B: claimants who could prove their claims and actual damages with a preponderance of evidence could have their documentation reviewed by a third-party arbitrator and the relief could be more or less than the relief provided in Track A.
  • The claims of more than 22,000 Track A applications were heard and decided. Fewer than 200 farmers opted for Track B, and nearly 66,000 petitions were filed late and thus not heard.
  • The $50,000 amount per farmer wasn’t adequate enough to qualify as justice, because when you take a farm away from people, you take away their livelihood.
  • Pigford II filed — With the help of Barack Obama, Black farmers were given a second chance to become part of the Pigford settlement through a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill. Obama and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) championed the provision that allocated an additional $100 million in restitution for Black farmers who were previously denied opportunities to join the class action because they’d missed the deadline for filing.
  • At a disadvantage because his firm didn’t participate in the original Pigford case, Greg Francis got to work finding clients for Morgan & Morgan to sign on as claimants in the Pigford II suit. Francis and his friend, Mike Espy, a former secretary of the USDA and the first Black person to hold that role, began holding rallies in an effort to inform Black farmers of the re opening of the class-action and to identify eligible claimants.
  • Because Congress had only set aside $100 million for the Pigford II claims, attorneys argued voraciously for additional funds to be set aside in order to provide restitution to the additional Black farmers who were seeking at least $50,000 in damages and $12,500 to cover their federal taxes.
  • September 2011 — When issued approval 10 months later, Greg Francis of Morgan & Morgan was named one of the three lead class attorneys, along with Andrew Marks of Crowell & Moring in Washington D.C., and Henry Sanders of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway and Campbell LLC in Selma, Alabama.
  • Claims Submitted — The attorneys working Pigford II submitted approximately 40,000 claim forms, of which 32,587 were completed and filed on time. A court-appointed adjudicator and claims administrator reviewed those claims and determined there were nearly 17,000 Track A claimants who were eligible to receive $62,500 each, totaling almost $1.1 billion in awards. About 1,200 of those claimants were Morgan & Morgan clients.
  • After all Pigford II claims were paid, there was about $9.5 million left in the money the federal government had appropriated which can be distributed to organizations that help further class members’ rights.
  • Attorneys are still working through plans for the remaining money, with intentions to seed some type of financial institution that can loan money to Black farmers when they can’t otherwise find funding.

Just Harvest, by Greg A. Francis, is available now.