In 1997, Timothy Pigford, an African-American farmer, joined forces with 400 other black farmers and filed a racial discrimination case against Dan Glickman, then the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and the USDA. The case surrounded the denial of farm credit and benefits to black farmers between 1981 and 1996. The landmark case of Pigford vs. Glickman expanded to a class action lawsuit after the Department of Justice stated that each case had to be reviewed individually. The farmers claimed to be able to prove that white farmers with similar backgrounds were given more credit and benefits from the government, and blacks were either denied or given much lesser amounts than requested.
In the original suit, 2,000 black farmers were expected to come forward with claims. Overall,
22,505 farmers came forward, and 13,348 were approved for payout. The black farmers received $50,000 each. To date, the largest compensation has been $13 million, paid to the New Communities of Southwest Georgia.
There was a statute of limitations placed on the class action complaints by the U.S. government. As a result, 70,000 additional black farmers were denied the opportunity to be heard. Many of the farmers said the notices were insufficient, and their lawyers were incompetent.
However, on Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman agreed to let those 70,000 farmers file their cases for litigation in order to receive payout. President Barack Obama issued a statement calling the new hearings “another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history.”